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Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, :toxx: to crit all entries.


Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

The Monument
1,409 / 2,100 words

The world will end in three weeks.

The world will end in three weeks and nobody knows why, least of all you. So while the scientists turn to prayer and the priests turn to drink, you turn inwards. You barricade yourself inside and close the blinds and retreat into the past. Films and TV, books and music - flawed and finite, ending all too soon and forcing you to remember what’s coming. You try turning to the internet instead, drowning yourself in the endless expanse of content as everyone else on Earth does the same. Humanity is played out in perfect detail across tweets and comments and articles, yo-yoing from denial to bargaining and back again. The four sides of the screen become the bounds of your new world, lit in a sterile, unchanging glow. Dirty plates pile up and the air turns stale and you must, at some point, have slept - because now, suddenly, the world will end in two weeks.

The world will end in two weeks and you rage. Your room is choking and oppressive; you smash the plates and crack the walls and scream and scream and scream. When you finally breathe again you’re in the street, barefoot and panting. Your front door is ajar; you can’t face going back inside and so instead you just walk away.

The pavement is rough underfoot. Each step brings new discomfort as grit shifts and resettles and digs into your skin. You strike a pebble and for a moment your toenail rings like a bell, before the pain flashes through. The sun overhead is hazy and indistinct, hidden behind gauzy clouds, while the wind tickles the hairs around your ears and pulls the tears back across your cheeks. Stiff, sleeping muscles strain against you but soon you’re striding along, the natural rocking motion playing across your hips and shoulders.

You find them in the town park, hear them before you see them - the solid thwack of metal on wood, the low churn of a cement mixer and the high, shrieking cry of children at play. Two dozen people swarm around a wooden frame, lift planks and boards up by hand and dig into the dirt. A frisbee sails through the air, children rushing to catch it. You clasp your hands around the metal railings that ring the park, feel the chipped paint and rusted iron under your palms, and watch. Time slows as you breathe in the smell of freshly mown grass and your mind empties.

The next day, you watch from dawn until dusk. People come and go, carrying building materials and hampers of food. It rains a little around noon and they cluster together under a stand of trees; when the weather clears, they grill a meal over a long fire pit. They beckon to you, then, and the rich, savoury smell of roasting meat and rubbing spices tempts your empty stomach. You don’t go in but you want to, your hands clenched around the railings, your sodden clothes plastered to your skin. When dusk falls you see them carefully replace the turf of the fire pit, tapping the grass back into place with the flats of their spades. When you get home, you stare at the smashed plates and the flat, empty black of the computer screen.

The world will end in less than two weeks, so the next day you enter the park with a hammer and an old pair of gardening gloves. The structure is starting to develop into multiple sections; the curve of a ship’s spine juts out from a blocky mound of concrete, while a rough wooden head rises from a half-carved log. The group welcomes you with open arms and soon you’re hauling planks alongside the Reverend Bates, his clerical collar bright white and severely starched. The wood burns your muscles and splinters your arms; when an elderly woman sprays antiseptic on them the smell burns worse than the pain.

Over lunch, talk turns to the Monument, as it is now known. Everyone contributes their part. The vicar has his ark, but his daughter carves the prow of a viking burial ship. The concrete mound conceals a hasty time capsule; the surface will be a mosaic. The humanoid figure emerges from the log, inch by inch, and when someone asks how long it will take there’s only the slightest pause before the reply of “oh, months and months”. The laughter is bittersweet and talk turns to holidays; France is the popular choice but not now. Better to wait until after the summer holidays, when flights are cheaper. You are acutely aware of the crust of salt on your lips and wash it away with ice-cold lemonade.

Time stretches. Dusk falls. You wander home, thoughts still on the Monument. Making plans, months and months of plans. You sweep up the shards of plates and food and separate out the recycling before bed.

You rise with stiff, aching limbs. You spend the day surrounded by smiling faces and the sound of conversation and the sun on your back. You turn the sweat on your brow into progress; piece by piece, the Monument grows. More people arrive, carrying food and drinks and building supplies. You delight in the way that wood slots together and nails drive home and the way your muscles move under your skin. When a man breaks down into great, heaving sobs mid-conversation, you sit with him. When he’s ready, you help him up. You sleep sounder than you ever have before. And then you get to do it again.

The world will end in a week.

The world will end in a week and you’re suddenly wide awake. It’s 2AM and the world will end in a week and you have to get out of your house. You have to move, have to feel your body work, have to shiver against the night chill and smell the breeze. You’re at the park before you know it, your limbs radiating heat and your lungs burning. The metal railing, when you touch it, snatches the warmth from your palm.

A figure stands in the shadow of the Monument - they look up as you approach, footsteps muffled by the wet grass. Reverend Bates clutches a lighter in his hands, the flame dancing. You can smell petrol. The world will end in a week and you’re suddenly tired as your body remembers it’s 2AM. You can’t see the vicar’s face in the shadows but the stark white of his collar stands out, crumpled and askew. The world will end in a week so what does it matter?

Nobody speaks. The minutes tick by. The lighter goes out and you see the shadow’s shoulders slump. A long, long moment later you hear the clicking of the lighter’s trigger and the rasping of its wheel.

The world will end in a week and you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to do anything.
Wood grain under your fingers. The surprising weight of the nails as you hold them in place. The smell of barbeque and the off-key whistling from somewhere nearby. There’s space on the ship’s mast for you to carve and the figurehead needs another coat of varnish. The world will end in a week BUT IT HASN’T ENDED YET.

You step forward and the vicar raises their hands to shield their face but you wrap your arms around them instead, drawing them in. A heartbeat passes before they collapse into you, arms wrapped around your back, the lighter uncomfortably hot against your cheek, their head pressed into your shoulder in silent, shaking cries. You hold them there for as long as it takes.

In the morning, you both return to work on the Monument. If your eyes are heavily shadowed or the smell of petrol still lingers, nobody mentions it. You’re too busy varnishing the figurehead and carving your name into the mast and stamping your handprint onto the mosaic in heavy, ochre pigment. In the afternoon you help plant a flower bed around the half-carved statue, its head and neck finally freed.

The world will end in less than a week but you live a lifetime each day. In the movement of your body and the mark you leave on the Earth and the hand you lend to those around you, you live. The world will end but that’s the world’s problem.

Your life will end but it hasn’t ended yet.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes


Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Week 493 :toxx: crits

Organburner - Royce at the end of the world

You have an interesting idea but it feels like you’re focusing everywhere that the story isn’t. We get the principal’s name (never used again) but not those of the bullies who have been tormenting the protagonist. We get the protagonist’s inner thoughts, fine, but none of the action. I’m not saying I want a play-by-play of a bully being ripped apart by a troll but an entire town managed to fall into the void and it gets maybe two lines allocated to it. In the story as it’s presented, nothing really happens to the protagonist - our point of view for the story - after the opening scene in the principal’s office. Everything happens just offscreen. Even the ending just boils down to “well it sure sucks that we fell into the void. Oh well.”

This just didn’t do it for me. Sorry.

Ceighk - Johan, Johan!

I like your opening; it’s clear and confident. There are a couple of typos (e.g. “... even today we bore …” switches tenses AFAICT) but nothing that distracts from the story. And this is a fun story so far; you gave the repetition of the poisoning attempts just enough of a wink and a nod to drive home the humour.

The section in audience with the Empress didn’t hit quite as hard. The dialogue felt just a little bit stilted. After that, though, things pick up again. “Dance as fight” / “fight as dance” is a bit of a cliche but you make it work; you give the action just enough detail to be evocative.

Only two other things really stood out: lots of Proper Nouns (“Dusk Palace”, “Aquarian Ball”, etc.) which I always find a bit jarring (despite being guilty of it myself), and the point of attraction between Cordelia and Johan could have been established a bit firmer. “And for some reason I like you” has big “Somehow Palpatine returned” energy. Let the spymaster lust after the assassin himbo.

This was a fun story and I enjoyed reading it.

Staggy - The Monument

Hey dumb-dumb, you want to maybe try not waiting until Sunday afternoon to start writing? Also, 2nd person? Really?

“Oh boy I’m going to toxx for all the crits and then only use like 300 extra words” - this is you, this is how foolish you sound.

Surreptitious Muffin - To Those Who Came After

From your opening paragraph it seems like your p.o.v. is a construction robot having an existential crisis. Rad.

I’m enjoying the tone you’ve set up; bleak but hopeful, striving to understand.

You’ve got a couple of typos but nothing major, nothing that breaks you out of the story. You use a lot of run-on sentences. I like the effect it has of stretching out the sense of time but I think you could stand to vary it a bit - it’s tricky to separate the discrete memories from the greater passage of the story. If that’s the effect you were going for, great! I just found the sections that were a bit more vivid, with shorter and punchier sentences, to be more impactful.

This was a story that didn’t lack for overall impact, though. Good work.

Noah - Don’t Forget to get a To-Go Plate

I’m not averse to using titles as names but you throw a lot of Proper Nouns at us in a very short amount of time and the effect is to blur everyone together until I’m not sure who is important and who is only around for a sentence. It gives the Usher (mentioned three times; one line of dialogue) equal weight to Roda (one of the main characters). You have quite a lot of characters for 1,100 words in general; I think you’d have a clearer focus if you whittled it down and threw everyone else into the background.

You have some great lines (I’m a particular fan of “a boy in skeleton makeup and an oversized suit teaches two uncle-in-laws how to skank”) and I enjoy the scope of what you’re writing about. I think the prompt makes for good, small-scale stories and this is a very “human” story with a lot of potential for conflict and drama. I think you spread yourself a little thin, though, given the word limit. You touch on lots of problems but never deeply enough to be satisfying. I think the effect you seem to be going for - the constant pressure of more and more little problems that add up and the human desire to just get this right - would have been preserved by summarising a lot of the problems up-front, giving you time to focus in on one or two in detail.

This was ambitious and touching.

My Shark Waifuu - Goblin-mother

You do an excellent job of setting the tone of your story; the image of Griselda sweeping the cartoon “ball of whirling first and fists” goblins into the chicken coop is great. It took me a moment to realise the italicised line at the start was the prompt and not actually part of the text. I like your interpretation of it, though - the speech pattern of the goblins is really fun.

I think my only real criticism is that your story feels very brief, even for 922 words. A lot of time is spent on the set-up; the main chunk of dialogue is over too soon and the ending is incredibly swift. I wanted to spend more time with Griselda the Goblin-mother; which, I suppose, is the sign of a job well done.

This was fun and over too soon.

Albatrossy_Rodent - The Sea Turtle and the Octopus

I like your core concept. It’s confidently done too; you do a good job of just laying out “hey this is the octopus, who is a wizard, and who speaks Ancient Octopusish”. It just feels a little threadbare. I’m not saying you need a ton of action scenes for no reason but I’d like to know more about these characters, see more through their eyes. You have the last sea turtle and an octopus wizard and I struggled to root for either. You let a lot of information about goals and motivation drip-feed very slowly into the story and while it’s organic it’s slow and comes far too late as a result. Use that confidence that I mentioned above and give me more up front so I know why to care.

This was a bittersweet little story in hindsight.

Idle Amalgam - Super Crypto Bros

With a title like that I was expecting a wild ride. What I got was a relentless downhill slog.

I side with Pete. I don’t think I’m meant to - am I? Pete seems fun. Pete gets a lucky break and decides the first thing he’s going to do is share his (eventual) luck with a friend with no expectation of return. Pete goes off and cashes in his luck and has fun and dies on a yacht. The protagonist whines and moans about Pete for no reason that’s ever explored and becomes an annoying crypto bro. The saving grace is that he’s so repellent that he drives away anyone who might be caught in his blast radius.

Like, I’ll laugh all day long at “all my apes gone” tweets but this?

This is just depressing

GrandmaParty - Priorities

I like your dialogue. I like your prose too but wanted to draw attention to the dialogue. It’s crisp and believable. The only problem I have with it is that you’ve got big chunks with no attribution and when you do attribute, it’s not as clear as it could be.

Other than that? There’s not much I want to say. Maybe a dialogue-heavy piece like this would have benefited from more distinct voices, touching on the blurring of lines I mention above. You could have afforded to cram some character in, particularly Slow Hand’s voice.

This had a twist ending that was blindingly obvious in hindsight, which I liked.

Chernobyl Princess - Paper Hearts

Your first scene sets the tone and scope nicely; the mention of the Creator’s mortality hints at what’s to come. If I have one criticism, it’s that the tenses/sense of time are a little vague. My first reading was that everything after the first line or two is a flashback to some indeterminate time before this current meeting. On re-reading I’m not as sure.

You establish clear goals, though, tying in to the scene-setting I mention above. Then you have a nice scene with the Creator and tie it all up in the ending. It’s a little pat and it doesn’t address that this is just kicking the can down the road until the Creator dies but it works as an ending.

Tyrannosaurus - in front of a funky green sky, a banjo player gets some bad news

I found your story heartwarming and sweet. You do a good job of setting up just enough oddity to the world that I can take at face value that this is told from the point of view of a sentient talking dog, or that music is something that can be grown on a farm.

Your dialogue is solid and I like the device you use towards the end of suddenly eloquent speech (paragraph starting “‘Hm’, I said again.”). It was a nice, effective moment of humour. The next set of dialogue from Carl, though, felt a bit saccharine and I wasn’t sure if that was a continuation of the device or just regular text.

If that sounds pedantic that’s because I’m struggling to think of anything else to say. This was a sweet little tale and you captured the Dog-ness of Carl very well.

Antivehicular - The Ride-Along

I am absolutely captivated by your worldbuilding here. It’s so hands-off but so effective; you squeeze a hell of a lot out of a single word like “scrip”. I don’t know enough about American geography to tell if you’re playing with the place names/borders/etc. but that’s fine.

I’m struggling with anything to say on this which, to be clear, is a good thing. The last few lines did trip me up a little bit, though. I initially read the references to the tire and the engine as literal, which confused me because Dee’s power means that this shouldn’t be a question. It worked as a metaphor when it finally clicked but the choice of wording was maybe a little too close to the actual events of the story.

Good story.

Thranguy - The Basilisk Score

You hooked me fast with the opening. The clear heist setup works and then the added twist of being dragged back to hell came at just the right time to really heighten my interest. You raise just enough questions with things like hearing’s R voice without an earpiece to get me invested. In short: good start.

And then you drip in that this isn’t really literal hell but some sort of simulation to rip off another end of time super intelligence.

The major problem I have (because I’m disregarding the few typos here - but check that last line again) is that I can’t tell if this is a good story in its own right or a very good setup for a story that I then don’t get to read. There’s a lot of setup but not that much story, which is a shame because the story that is there is great.

I have no idea how to judge this story. Luckily, that isn’t my problem this week!

The man called M - How Andy became a man

You have a solid story concept here, with a new angle on an old cliche. Your prose and dialogue just let you down a bit; they’re both a bit clunky and lack confidence.

Take the second paragraph, for example (starting “To many young men …”). Cut out the last two sentences (so that the final word is “Ann”) and read it again. See how the meaning is preserved, with fewer words, and it ends on a stronger beat? You need to trust that the reader will pick up the implication without you having to state it outright. As it is, the last two sentences are the equivalent of explaining why the joke you just told is funny. Less, here, is more.

The dialogue in that first scene is cheesy. Cheesy can work but it isn’t believable and I think (subjective opinion here) that you really need to lean one way or the other. Either commit to 80s teen movie dudetacular dialogue or make it sound like something an actual person would say. Reading it out loud to yourself is a big help for the latter.

The scene between Jamie and Andy is cute but doesn’t really add much to the story. You get the potential love interest in one sentence and the rest is filler; you’re just restating things the reader already knows. Jamie might not know them but unless they react in an interesting way that’s not the reader’s problem.

FYI calling him Chad is a bit on the nose. Again, if you were leaning into the radical, 80s side of the story it would work.

There’s the bones of a good story in there. You could do a lot with the idea of what it means to be a man just based on the idea of wearing a helmet versus not; “I’m a man, not an idiot”, etc. It just gets buried under you explaining and re-explaining yourself; the constant justification of why it’s called the Kettle, don’t worry they told the police about the corpses, etc.

Write with confidence.

Yeah ok ok yeah - “Deep Rich”, Excursion 385

I will neither confirm nor deny the extent to which your gonk gangtag influenced my mental image of Deep Rich.

I like your early characterisation of Deep Rich with the .wav files. It’s a small but evocative touch. The later boasts about its features don’t add as much, particularly in the context of it being a puzzle why the responses didn’t mean much. Pneumatic strength is irrelevant to that question and even the fluff details about positronic brains tells us little; it’s enough to say “... which was odd, because it was a thinking machine”.

Which I realise now is the opposite of what you actually said. Is that a typo or were you going for something else?

Not much happens to Deep Rich which is fine because I like the idea of this being a trundle through a ruin where the story lies in the environment and what happened to the outpost. It’s just a little thin - if anything, you could stand to focus less on Deep Rich and more on one or two evocative setpieces/rooms it comes across. If you needed the words you could cut most of what comes before it arrives at the door to the outpost - it adds little that couldn’t be summarised.

Your ending wasn’t clear to me. Did the outpost survivors scan themselves into the machines? Did they turn themselves into the weird cat? I can’t tell.

A Classy Ghost - The Dead City Marches On

Two words that I very much like: “Nimothy” and “metropolich”. You’re going for a very literal title, I see.

“his boss kept telling him he was essential, but refused to give him a raise” - ouch.

Another word I like: “murderwitch”. I want to read more about Ananastasia the Murderwitch.

I like your setting. I like your setting a lot. There just wasn’t that much story here; you spend a lot of time on setting up the conflict for Nimothy, then jump right to the resolution. It just leaves me with questions about what happened in-between; that’s the story.

CaligulaKangaroo - Final Exam

I love everything about your opening. It pulled me in instantly.

I just don’t get why Gray stays in the classroom. Waiting for a call back from Eddie? Why here? If it’s just to take shelter, fine, but that could be made a little clearer than “Got to kill time” and the decision to stay once people break in (“A blast rings from downstairs …”) could stand to be a bit more decisive. Your opening paints them as a risk-taker, sure, but as someone who has goals and plans and acts on them. The followup doesn’t match that.

“You were so close” - good guilt-trip phrase but also describes the story here.

Crabrock - Liebrary

This is getting a bit outside the scope of these crits but everything your partner said about this story is validated by that title pun.

See, this is what happens when you recruit a bunch of teens with attitude. Only I think that joke has been made a hundred times before.

You’ve proven you can write well in the past and this felt rushed. Why does the protagonist know about pirate tricks? Why do they tell the mayor that they’re waiving the late charges when Whitney was the one to check it out? And so on.

Flerp - To the Reclaimers

I guess I’d describe this as a meditation rather than a story. It’s heartfelt but a very dense reading experience. Once that’s unpicked, it seems a little repetitive in its ideas (which I suppose works well for a slow, meditative experience) but I’m afraid it doesn’t really work for me. It’s not bad.

I’m struggling to explain this well. The closest I think I can come is the expression that I “bounced off” this when trying to read it. Does that make sense? It’s so dense and poetic that it’s hard to engage with and I can’t really take much away from it other than the surface level analysis.

I think this just isn’t for me.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

When all you have is a sword
Prompt: this lady has got scars on scars, her skin looks hard as teak, you've never seen a warrior her age, and every day she gets up and stares at the mountain like she's got a score to settle
Words: 1,178 / 1,200

Moya squinted at the faded label on the jar, the spidery handwriting dancing in the candlelight. She took a tentative sniff, grunted, and scooped an unsteady tablespoon of grey powder into the mixing bowl. There was a puff of dark, acrid smoke and the bottom of the bowl began to bubble and melt; she carried it several hurried steps, her hip screaming, and flung it out the door into the midday gloom, where it began to melt a hole in the lawn.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Sunder said, glaring at her through its jewelled hilt. The sky-iron blade was buried in the wood of the chopping board.

“Oh, piss off you rusty old sod,” Moya snapped back. “Who made you a cook?”

“Bad enough you like that disgusting stuff in your tea,” the blade sniffed. “Shan’t think why you’d add powdered manticore to scones.”

“Eh?” Moya glanced back at the jar. “Not sugar?”

“That’s what happens when you don’t wear your glasses,” Sunder said. “Didn’t I warn you?”

“You’re just grumpy because I used you to cube the butter.” Moya began to rummage around in the cupboard for a new bowl. “Not my fault you’re only good for cutting.”

“Oh that’s rich, coming from you! I should - nonono, not the ground, there are worms down -”

Sunder’s voice was cut off as Moya thrust it into the lawn by the back door. She stood there while she caught her breath, leaning against the wood of the doorframe. Before her, many miles to the south, Dragonfang Mountain bit up into the sky, the sun a haze hidden behind its peak.

It had been a very, very young and very, very romantic idea to build a home in the tip of the mountain’s shadow. Well, she hadn’t built it herself. She wasn’t one for building. But cutting an erupting volcano free from shore and pushing it out to sea brought in a lot of favours. Regardless, like most young, romantic ideas, she hadn’t stopped to think what it would be like fifty years later. So now, while the fields 200 yards away were lit by bright, summer sun, Moya wondered if she should put on another cardigan.

No, bugger that. She needed to be moving, properly moving, not faffing around in a kitchen. She gripped the sword’s handle and pulled it free.

“- slimy, I ought to - well, it’s about time!”

“Shush, you,” Moya said, hefting Sunder by her side. It was the one thing that didn’t seem to get any heavier. “Anyone would think you actually could rust.”

“Well I’d like to see how you like being covered in dirt with worms crawling over you!” Sunder snapped.

“Soon enough,” Moya muttered as she walked over to the wood pile. She didn’t listen to Sunder’s reply; there were plenty of logs to be chopped and she flipped one onto the block with a practised hand. When she brought the blade down, there was a moment - a perfect moment - where her body moved as it always had and all her worries were just cut away. The wood fell in seven perfectly equal pieces.

“Showoff,” Sunder said. “Still don’t see why it has to be seven.”

“Odd numbers are tricky,” Moya said, a faint grin on her lips, though there was nobody to see it. “Harder to judge an even cut.”

“Scones are tricky. That was easy.”

“Well I didn’t spend a lifetime making scones, now, did I?” Moya split the next log with a little more vigour than needed; Sunder’s blade sank into the block below and it yelped out in alarm. It stayed silent as Moya pulled it back out and split three more logs.

“She’s going to love you, you know that?” Its voice caused Moya to clench her grip a little harder.

“It’s a baby,” she said, her voice perfectly level. “It loves milk and sleeping.”

“Nearly three,” the blade whispered. “Not a baby.”

“Hah! A grubby little thing getting underfoot isn’t any better.”

“You don’t want to see her?”

“Didn’t ask for Iosaf to bring it,” Moya grumbled. “Don’t see me making a fuss.”

“No,” the sword said, “just scones. For the first time in your life. Not to mention the dusting.”

“What dusting?”

“Exactly,” Sunder said. “But you cut the bigger cobwebs down.”

“Caleb used to do the dusting.”

There was an awkward silence, while Moya gathered the split logs, spearing each on the tip of Sunder in turn. Her knees let her bend enough to grab the basket. Sunder didn’t speak until they were back in the house.

“You know,” it said eventually, as Moya rested by the crackling fire, “they’ll be coming down from Oesterly.”

Moya grunted.

“Used to be a lot of bandits around Oesterly.”

“Yes,” Moya said, a satisfied grin rising to her face, “I do remember that.”

“And the Fallow Pass hasn’t seen any werewolf attacks in decades.”

“So I’ve heard.” Moya ran her hands through the thick pelt draped over the chair’s back.

“Sea crossings are pretty calm now, after that cult business.”

“Sisterhood of the Deep,” Moya said, as her gaze drifted to the past. “Gods, I haven’t thought about them in years. I think that’s where I first met Caleb.”

This silence was easier. It lay across the room like a thick blanket, broken only by the fire in the hearth. A particularly green log split with a whip crack and Moya jerked back to the present, gripping Sunder and scanning the room for danger. When she remembered where she was, her grip relaxed.

“You’ve got me daydreaming,” she said softly, feeling her heartbeat slow back down. “Plenty of work to be doing and you’ve got me here daydreaming.”

“Point is,” Sunder said, “you’ve done plenty for her already. Don’t go thinking you need to be making scones too.”

“Never said I did,” Moya said. “Maybe I just wanted some scones for myself.”

“And maybe I’m a wood-axe.”

Moya sighed. “And maybe I’m tired of cutting. You ever think of that?”

Sunder snorted. “I might have noticed.”

“So what can I possibly give my granddaughter when cutting’s all I’m good for?”

Sunder paused. “Well,” it said, “I don’t have eyes but I’m pretty sure she’d like you more if your house wasn’t so gloomy.”

“More light? And how exactly am I supposed to do that?”

There was a pointed, metallic cough.

“Oh. Oh!”

Slowly, a wicked grin crept across Moya’s face. “People might notice.”

“So?” The jewels on Sunder’s hilt gleamed brighter. “We’ll do what we always do.”

Two voices rang out in unison: “Blame it on a wizard!”


The next morning, Moya stood in her kitchen, her glasses heavy on her nose. Sunlight streamed through the windows and lit up Sunder, resting once more in the chopping board. A new mixing bowl sat in front of her, half full, as Moya peered carefully at each jar, a mug of tea fizzing away by her side.

Outside, the morning sun rose for the first time over the plateau of what would, eventually, come to be known as Cutfang Mountain.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes


Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Thick as Thieves
1,477 / 1,500 words

Kerry’s fingers spooled the thin line between them in practised motions as her night vision goggles whirred to life. The atrium below her was a green-black landscape; above her, the moon was framed in an open grille. Three different alarm systems screamed her presence to the world - but thanks to a hefty bribe to the night janitor and several precisely cut wires, the museum was silent.

“You know, Roy’s cooking a roast on Sunday. To celebrate.”

Beside her, the man she had known for twenty years as Colm descended on his own line. His voice crackled in her earpiece.

“What type?” she whispered back, her voice barely making it to the microphone.

“Chicken.” She could almost hear Colm’s grin. “Great big fat thing. Had to buy a new bucket for him to brine it in. He says it’ll be the best I’ve ever eaten - and then there are the sides, Anna, the sides! Honey glaze parsnips, truffle mash, cauliflower cheese …”

Kerry let him talk; she tuned back in only as they reached the cable tray that circled the atrium, the metal silver in the moonlight. When she tested it, the tray was far sturdier than its frame suggested. More than enough to take the weight of two passing thieves.

“... than enough for two people,” Colm finished. He silently grabbed onto the tray behind her as Kerry began to crawl.

“Sounds delicious,” Kerry said.

“So you and Marge - any plans?”


“To celebrate.”

The beam of a flashlight cut through the darkness below; Kerry jackknifed her hand in the signal that meant shut the hell up.

They paused there for several long minutes as a guard swept a lonely path through the museum with their flashlight, only moving again when the last footsteps had disappeared around a corner. Kerry let the familiar little flutter of her heartbeat settle and pushed on.

“So, plans?”

“No plans. Why?”

“Because you only get to retire once,” Colm said with a sigh. “And Roy’s cooking a roast.”

“You said,” Kerry replied, pulling herself along the tray. “drat, this thing is rock solid.”

“Should be,” Colm said. “I spent hours faking those work orders, remember?”

Under her mask, Kerry frowned. “When was that?”

“February. You were at that wedding.”

“I didn’t go to a wedding in February.” A memory rushed back. “That was - it was a funeral.”

She heard the sharp intake of breath behind her and instantly wished she’d kept her mouth shut.

“A funeral?” Colm hissed.

“Relax,” Kerry said, “it wasn’t mine. Marge’s dad.”

She could feel the shocked silence radiating off of him all the way to the secure wing where they knelt in tandem in front of the locks and began to drill. Overhead, a banner advertised the Atlanta Ruby.

“You should have told me.”

The words were tinged with hurt and Kerry winced.

“You were busy.”

“Aw, jeez, Anna - it’s nothing I couldn’t have handled. More than you should have had to handle alone.”

Kerry didn’t respond to that, stepping into the secure wing instead.

“Anna, I -”

“It’s fine.”

“But I -”

“I said it’s fine,” she hissed, loud enough to escape her mask. Colm instinctively jerked his hand - shut the hell up! - but she could see the regret almost immediately in the slump of his shoulders.

“You should have told me.” Colm stepped cautiously ahead, his eyes sweeping the walls and floors.

“Told you what, Colm?” Kerry placed only the slightest inflection on the name. “That I needed you and Roy to come over with wine and icecream and let me cry it all out?”

Ahead of them, the Atlanta Ruby emerged out of the gloom, its pedestal encased in glass and ringed with wires and pressure pads. They both stopped a safe distance away. While Colm began to rummage in his bag of tricks, Kerry eased her way into Downward-Facing Dog.

“You hate wine,” Colm said, his voice flat. He punctuated his words with the slick click of oiled metal sliding together as he assembled the diamond cutter.

“I do not!” Downward-Facing Dog into Plank Pose.

“You do.” Click-click. “You only order it because Marge likes it. You drink one sip for show then switch to cranberry juice.”

Plank Pose wavered. “When did I tell you that?”


“Oh god, Geneva.” Kerry eased herself up. “With the Countess and the -”

“- fake Van Gogh,” Colm finished. “Yeah. When you drank your way through the embassy and nearly got us electrocuted.”

“That’d be why I don’t remember,” Kerry muttered. She held out a hand and Colm dropped the diamond cutter into it. He knelt down, a metre away from the pedestal, and she climbed up onto his shoulders. With the barest grunt, Colm stood up.

Kerry breathed in, out, in - then, in a single, continuous movement, tucked her legs under Colm’s armpits, lifted herself over his head and lowered herself forwards over the wires and the pressure pads and the god-knows-what-else so that she was lying flat in mid-air, suspended by her ankles and Colm’s hands on her knees and the burning tension in her core and nothing else. She stretched her arms out in a practised Superman Pose and pressed the cutter to the glass case.

“Guess you don’t remember telling me Marge’s real name either.”

Her hand jerked; the cutter screamed as she dragged it in a jagged slew across the glass.
“I did not!”

There were no hands free to signal shut the hell up and the noise echoed through the empty hall.

“Starts with an F.”

gently caress,” she whispered.


“Why would you tell me that now?” Taking a deep breath - and suppressing the desire to somehow turn and slap Colm - Kerry pressed the cutter back to the glass and tried to finish the circle.

“Because if this goes tits up there won’t be time on the way out,” Colm said, grunting. The faintest shivers ran through his arms and Kerry’s abs twitched in sympathy. “And then what? Radio silence, you said.”

“Well, I -”

“Twenty years and that’s it? Radio silence?”

“On a yacht,” Kerry grunted. Her entire body was on fire. “Floating in a private pool on a bigger yacht. Because we were smart and we agreed -”

“Compartmentalise it,” Colm said and Kerry could hear the grit in his teeth and the strain in his arms and how it matched the strain in her own. The cutter was so heavy now; she let it drag her arms down to finish the cut and tap the glass inwards and when she grasped at the ruby she didn’t have to give the signal before Colm fell back, hauling her over the wires and pressure pads and god-knows-what-else to land on the floor.

“You promised,” Kerry gasped, “promised you wouldn’t get addicted. That we’d retire on our own terms.”

There was a long pause full of ragged breathing.

“When did I say that?” Colm asked.


Las Vegas.” There was a shifting of limbs under her and Kerry rolled over, disentangling herself as Colm pushed himself to his knees. “After twenty years, you remembered?”

“Of course,” Kerry said. “In that dingy little bar with the jukebox stuck on that one Johnny Cash song.”

“Folsom Prison Blues,” Colm sighed.

“So don’t get all romantic on me now,” Kerry said. “No more work. We agreed.”

“It’s not the work.”

“Then what?”

“No more us?”

Kerry stared at the green, fuzzy ceiling far above. “What ‘us’?”

“Don’t give me that,” Colm said. “You saved my life in London.”

“And you saved mine in Paris.”

“Exactly. No more Colm and Anna?”

“Colm and Anna are done,” Kerry hissed. “That was the whole point! And I promised F- Marge, that she’d never have to meet Colm.”

“And Simon knows not to ask about Anna.”

“Who’s Si- oh you idiot.”

Kerry groaned. It was the sort of groan that she’d practised far too often over the years; the sort that meant “nobody said there’d be two guards on patrol”.

“You shouldn’t have told me that.”

“You can thank me later,” Colm said, “over Simon’s roast. I’ll make sure there’s cranberry juice.”

Kerry sighed and stretched and rose from the floor, the ruby gripped tight in her fist. “We’ve got to get out of here first.”


“And meet the fence.”

“Even easier.”

“And the safehouse is -”

Colm smiled - Kerry could see the corners of his mask crinkle - and held out a hand to stop her. “I’m sure Anna can handle it. I’m not sure she can handle retirement alone.”

“I’ve got Marge.”

“Anna has Marge. Anna dies tonight, remember? Who do you have?”

She sighed and weighed the ruby in her hand.


“If you’ll have me.”

Anna and Colm had burned through the world over the past two decades. Who knew what was waiting in the embers?

“I think,” she said with a sigh, “that Freyja’s going to love Simon’s roast.”

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, flash please.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

1,598 words

They hunt you in the desert.

They have guns inlaid with gold and vehicles that hover over the sand that used to be California. They have guns and vehicles and a contract that you signed at the barrel of another gun, this one made of gold (or at least the descendant of gold). You chose this, they’ll say, and so it is hardly a sin at all. Your family will be housed and fed (at least for a little while) and your debts will be forgiven (so easy, when the hunter is also the lender) if only you run.

When the whistle blasts, you surge forward, all twelve of you. The sun isn’t up yet and it is bitterly cold; you leave a trail of footprints through the crust of frosted sand. You have a little water each and a little food too; you want to be light, the attendant at the starting line said with a laugh. You want to be fast.

You could see the golden gun pointed at her head too.

So you run. The twelve of you run in the same direction at first, because they start you in a valley. Five hours’ headstart; only sporting, they said. Just long enough for them to rise and shower and leisurely dine, to take a car to the airport and a helicopter to the starting line. All the while, you struggle through softening sand and the sun comes up and the bitter cold turns to murderous heat. The rising wind wipes away your footprints; the only mercy.

The goal is a day away. A simple button on a plinth in the middle of a desert plain. The first runner to press it lives. The second has a 1-in-2 chance. The third, 1-in-3. There are no laws in the desert when the hunt is on and all twelve of you can do the brutal, ugly maths. You run together at first but not too close and when the valley ends and the desert stretches out ahead of you, you spread out. You each have a compass that points towards the plinth and you can each see the straightest line, the optimal line - but you can each do the maths.

You lose sight of the others quickly. You lose any sense of direction quickly too; for all that you can see which way the plinth lies, the desert is all-encompassing. Each dune has its own gravity and you struggle from one to the other, looping out away from the direct path but not too far out. From the peak of one dune you see a distant runner, though it’s impossible to tell whether they are ahead of you or not. They slip out of sight and you feel the prickle on the back of your neck that is partly the sun and partly the deeply primitive awareness that you’re too exposed. You slide down the dune, sand scraping your arms.

A distant warbling, rapidly growing, is the only warning you have before a vehicle screams overhead.

You throw yourself flat and pray, with that desperate, childish passion, that they didn’t see you or that it will at least be quick. When no shots fire, you let yourself crawl upright and spit the sand from your mouth. From the next dune you see them, their vehicle set down, their guns across their laps as they sit in the shade of an umbrella and sip long drinks from tall glasses. They’re sat in the shade of a valley between the dunes, a valley you had hoped to take - but now, instead, you crawl on your belly around them, behind them, farther out of your way than you had planned and further from the distant plinth.

It takes you an hour to crawl a hundred metres around them, the skin on the back of your arms ever-reddening despite your clothes. You hear the clink of glasses and soft laughter and you’re filled with the sudden urge to turn and face them with your canteen, a rock, your bare fists - but then a shot rings out and you see a distant shape topple from the top of a dune and a delighted cry - Oh, well done! - and so you crawl away in shame.

You stumble across the shack a little after noon. Wood and faded plastic peek out from under the sand that has half-buried it; a defiant monument to the fact that someone, at some time, lived here. Before the desert or after isn’t clear, though you think it was after; it reminds you all too much of the shacks that crowd the coastline, the ones that are held together by stubbornness more than anything else. The ones that can’t exist anywhere else.

The air inside is marginally cooler and you’re so enraptured by the shade and so desperate to rest and take a sip from your canteen that you don’t notice the other runner until you nearly trip over them. They’re sprawled across the floor, their canteen hugged close to their chest and they’re not sweating; you’re dimly aware that that’s a bad sign. They stare weakly up at you and your canteen and you’re frozen there, the metal spout to your lips.

The growing whine of an approaching vehicle cuts through the air.

There are plenty of shadowy corners to hide in and you pick the deepest, wading your way into the sand that has found its way through the rough boards. You crouch there as the vehicle settles down outside, hoping, praying again, that they won’t see you - that they’ll not look too closely, that they’ll move on.

A figure steps into the doorway, their shadow long across the floor. A moment’s pause before they take a single, creaking step into the shack. Another moment, the longest you’ve ever lived, and they step past your hiding spot. You don’t dare breathe, don’t dare move a muscle, now grateful for the sand underfoot that softens the trembling of your limbs.

And then you remember the other runner, just as the figure, the chaser, takes a third step and spots the prone body clutching their empty canteen. You hear the intake of breath and the soft rub of metal on cloth as they shift their gun across their chest and all you can think is that this is good for you. The other runner wasn’t going to make it any further. This chaser will leave the shack, satisfied. They might even overlook this route now that they think they’ve found their prey, let you gain some ground without looking over your shoulder. This is good for you and the best part is you don’t have to do a thing.

You just have to watch.

But you’ve already watched the distant figure drop from the dune. You’ve already watched two ice-cold glasses clink together while you rationed warm water. You’ve watched the towers rise, gaudy and vacant, from the window of a shack a lot like this one, while your family sat and discussed, in tired voices, who would eat dinner that night.

And your canteen is a heavy lump of metal clenched in your fist.

You bring it down in a perfect arc that ends at the base of the chaser’s skull. Metal and bone meet; metal wins. The chaser crumples and the gun drops from their fingers to the sand. The other runner stares at you and there’s the slightest pull of a smile at their lips; their eyes close, satisfied. You stand there, numb, in the shack in the desert and watch the chaser’s body begin to cool.

When you think to, you kneel and press your canteen to the other runner’s lips and bring them back, propping them up as they splutter and choke at the water. The chaser had a heavy canteen of his own and the water inside is as clear and cold as any you’ve ever tasted.

The gun, when you pick it up, seems to weigh nothing at all.

The chaser’s partner doesn’t see you coming; the shot rings as loud for them as it did for the runner you saw drop. The inside of the vehicle is an icebox; the controls are simple. You can be at the plinth in an hour, even flying low to avoid the other chasers. Another hour to bury the vehicle, then wait for nightfall before you press the button to make your journey seem believable. None of the runners on foot can hope to beat you there.

You win.

The other runners lose.

And the chasers -

They’ll keep chasing. While they have cold drinks and vehicles that hover over the sand and guns inlaid with gold. While there are runners who don’t, who just have their feet and a gun pointed at their head. You can’t change that. You’re sure you can’t. There are too many of them and the towers are too tall and you don’t even know where you’d start.

But right now there are ten other runners in the desert. Maybe. Runners who could use a drink of water and a ride in a climate-controlled vehicle out of the desert. And maybe it’s a start and maybe it isn’t but it’s better than nothing. It’s more help than anyone ever gave you but that’s no reason not to give it to someone else.

You help the other runner, the runner whose name you now learn is Shaun, into the cabin of the vehicle next to you. In the distance, you spot another vehicle silhouetted in the air.

You hunt them in the desert.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, gimme a weirdo.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Nae posted:

You're the first person to request, so you get the #1 bear. Please note: he is #1 at EVERYTHING.

Number 1 Bear
Words: 921 / 1,000

Muffin was the first bear. He had the badge to prove it and everything.

Of course, being the first bear also meant that he was the only bear. Because of this, he had all the colours of the rainbow (and then some) to himself and he stored them in his fur. Muffin was very proud of that. On the other hand, being the only bear meant that he was also a lonely bear. Muffin didn’t like that so much.

There weren’t many animals back then but they were all Muffin’s friends. There was Sammy the Sparrow and Louie the Louse and Berty the Beaver who lived in the river. The forest was alive with Muffin’s animal friends and he spent every day playing with them but -

But when the sun started to go down and all of the animals went home by themselves, Muffin went back to a den that was cosy and dry but just too big for one bear.

One day, Muffin helped Berty build out their dam, carrying great big logs down to the river for them. Afterwards, while he was bathing in the water, Muffin had a fantastic idea.

“I’ll make more bears,” he cried, “and then they’ll be my family!”

Muffin was very pleased with himself. But what to make them from? Bears don’t own much - but when Muffin saw his reflection in the water, he had another fantastic idea.

“My colours,” he said. “I’ll make them from the colours of my fur.”

And so, he pulled the green out of his fur and began to mash it like clay - but Muffin’s paws were very big and wet from the river and the colour kept on slipping and sliding. By the time he was finished, the green didn’t look much like a bear - its head was all squashed and its back was all lumpy and its limbs were all skinny and wrong. It hopped away from Muffin before he could grab it and disappeared into the river.

Muffin had just made the first frog! But he was sad, because it wasn’t a bear and now his fur had blank patches where the green had been. He sulked for a little while but he was still very lonely and so he decided to try again. This time, he got out of the river and dried himself off and found a nice quiet clearing to work in.

“This time,” he thought, “I’ll take my time.”

And so he pulled not one but two colours from his fur, slowly weaving indigo and violet into a shimmering sheet. He would stuff it with grass and sew himself a family - but his claws were too sharp and when he tugged at the sheet it fell into a dozen ribbons that fluttered off into the sky. Muffin watched the first butterflies fly away and his spirits sank, his fur covered in even more blank patches.

“Oh this is hopeless,” he cried. “I’m good for nothing!”

“What did you say?”

Muffin turned to see his friend Berty the Beaver crouching at the edge of the clearing.

“Oh, Berty,” Muffin sighed, “it’s no good. I can’t do anything right - I tried and tried to make a family for myself but my paws are too clumsy and my claws are too sharp. What can I do?”

“Don’t say that!” Berty said. “Why, your paws may be big and your claws may be sharp but you’re good for so many things! You pulled all those trees to the river for me - why, without you, my dam wouldn’t be half as fine!”

“But I can’t build a family like that,” Muffin said. “I’ll be all alone forever!”

“You’ll never be alone,” Berty said. “You have me - and I know Sammy and Louie feel the same way too! But if you want to make more bears, why, I’d be happy to help!”

Muffin sniffed away a tear and looked down at Berty. The beaver’s hands were small and nimble, his claws no trouble at all.

“You would?”

“Of course,” Berty said. “I’d be happy to pay you back for your help with the dam, friend.”

Now Muffin was a proud bear but not too proud. He gladly accepted Berty’s offer and pulled from his fur all of the brown, scooping it in front of the beaver. Berty, for his part, patted the colour flat with his tail and then sculpted it with his hands - soon, a dozen little brown bears sat in the clearing.

“Oh, Berty, thank you!” Muffin laughed and jumped around the new bear cubs, who laughed and jumped around him. “More! Can you make more?”

And so Muffin pulled the red and the black and white from his fur, and the yellow and the orange and the colours in between. Berty sculpted each of them into a dozen bear cubs, blending colours as he went. Muffin was soon surrounded by a crowd of cubs of nearly every imaginable hue. The only ones missing were those he had lost; the green and the indigo and the violet.

And blue. Muffin kept that to himself, because even with his multicolour family around him he was still a proud bear. His fur was patchy and blank in the places where he had pulled out the colour but in all the other spots it was as blue as the river. For the rest of his days, other bears would look at his blue and his badge in awe and whisper to themselves: “There goes Muffin.”

“The Number 1 Bear.”

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, please pick me some lines.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

flerp posted:

What, we don't know, because we are not like them.
We can't even dress like them.
We are like red bugs or mites compared to them.

The Names of the Island
Words: 1,022 / 2,015

There are gods in the caves in the mountain.

There are gods in the caves and they do what gods do: they feast upon humans. The children of the Island will often ask why; what is a human to a god? And the oldest and wisest of the women around the campfire, the ones who dress in scarlet and live in small huts in front of the caves, will smile and nod and say: what is a fly to a spider? What is a log to the fire?

What are you to a god?

Flies have wings and branches have bark but humans have precious little to dissuade a god. Arrows and spears kill the flesh, of which gods have none. And so the oldest and wisest of the children around the campfire, the ones who don’t realise that they are children still, will wonder: why have I never seen a god? Why have they never come for me and mine, never left their caves in the long span of years - more than a dozen! - that I can recall?

Because they are shrouded, of course.

The Island is small and can be crossed in an hour. When a new birth is imminent, one of the women in scarlet will be there. When waters break suddenly, the women in scarlet are called before the midwife. This is because they know the right words and the secret hand gestures; they know the proper manner of anointing and dressing the new babe. They know the names, of which there are many, and so they say to the newborn: you are fire. You are the surf. You are boulder.

Gods do not hunger for fire, nor the surf on the shore nor the boulders of the mountain.

And in this manner, the Island is safe. No humans walk its shore, after all, but fire and surf and boulder. And if fire should take another name, one suited to human tongue, then they do not lose their first name. And in this manner, they are shrouded from the gods, who sleep in their caves in the mountains.

But just suppose -

Just suppose that there was a secret birth. Suppose that she and he were not promised to each other but found each other regardless. Found each other and, nine months later, found themselves in a dark fishing hut rattling with midnight rain and the feeble cries of a newborn. A secret birth so that she and he could, for a night, be they. And the newborn cries as newborns are known to do but there are no women in scarlet there to say the right words or make the secret hand gestures. And perhaps, in a moment of recollection, she calls the newborn Sky.

But Sky is not sky.

The Island can be crossed in an hour and it takes that long for the gods to wake, the scent of a human in their minds. They stretch out their limbs, of which they have several, and draw in the air, which mixes with their blood. The gods are awake and the gods are hungry. They pass by the huts where the women in scarlet dwell and crawl down the mountain and never once leave their caves, for a god is a thing with only one end and as much middle as they need. And maybe the women in scarlet notice and maybe they don’t.

But just suppose they do notice.

Then they race down the mountain. They do not fight the gods because they are also shrouded and named for root and cloud and undertow and other things that cannot hurt a god either. But gods are slow and women are not, even if they are root or boulder, and so they overtake the gods and begin a desperate search that they half-remember from when they sat around the campfire and asked questions that they thought were wise. And maybe they find he and she in time and speak the right words and make the secret hand gestures and now Sky is also sky and the gods retreat, hungry, to their caves.

But maybe they don’t.

Maybe the gods come across he and she first, unspooling themselves from their caves and coiling around the fishing hut, coarse skin rubbing on coarse skin. The closer they come, the louder the baby cries and the louder the baby cries, the closer they come. He and she cry too as the wooden walls and roof of the fishing hut peel back, as the gods begin to croon and bob their heads and descend upon the babe. Their mouths open all the way and their eyes roll back. They brush aside he (who is surf) and she (who is fire) and inhale deeply, so deeply that the newborn babe can no longer cry.

What then?

Then, the gods return to their caves, sated. The women in scarlet arrive in the end (for the gods leave easy trails to follow) and now their task is a grim one. They send to the village for two stout man to hold he and two more to hold she and they take the babe - which is no longer crying but, sadly, not at all quiet - and they wrap it in broad leaves and carry it up the mountain to an empty cave. They place it inside and say the right words and make the secret hand gestures and name it the only thing they can name a newborn that now speaks in their language.

They name it god.

And in time he will climb the mountain and build a small hut in front of a cave that is no longer empty, while she learns the right words and the secret hand gestures. In time, she will be gifted with scarlet robes. They will never be they again but sometimes he will come and sit with she at the mouth of the cave and sing soft lullabies into the darkness. Sometimes, they will hear snippets of song returned - but this is pure coincidence, of course. Sleep talk.

The gods cannot hear the surf and the fire.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Thunderdome Week 499 - Listen here you little poo poo

Because someone had the temerity to use my first idea for this prompt last year, we're going back to basics.

A whole lot of stories revolve around conflict and this week so will yours. Write me a story about two characters who disagree about something on a fundamental level and take their conflict way too far. You're all on the internet so this should be a familiar situation. Crucially, though, both characters should be equally right/wrong (including slapfights about things which have no objective right answer).

Example: the proper way to cut sandwiches.

Now, I don't want lolrandom stories. "You like pineapple on pizza so now I will shoot you" is not interesting. Conflict doesn't have to mean physical violence either. Maybe the conflict is a long-running issue; maybe it's a symptom; maybe it's the spark. I'm looking for strong characters here.

If you like, a judge can assign you the conflict. Otherwise, you can choose your own. You don't have to post it separately in that case but it should be clear what it is in your story. If a judge does assign it, please quote it above your submission.

No: erotica, political satire, Google Docs, etc.

Word Limit:
1,000 words if you choose your own conflict
1,200 words if a judge chooses for you

Signups close: Midnight PST Friday 25th Feb
Submissions Close: Midnight PST Sunday 27th Feb

  • Me
  • The man called M
  • Chernobyl Princess

  • rohan - Marmalade: peel or no peel?
  • Sitting Here
  • Chairchucker - the quickest way home.
  • Bad Seafood - who bought the toaster?
  • Albatrossy_Rodent - Breakfast tea: do you add the milk first or the water first?
  • Thranguy - what shade of blue is this?
  • CaligulaKangaroo - how soon is too soon to respond to a message?
  • yeah ok ok yeah
  • BabyRyoga - Two guys in love with the same woman (or vice versa).
  • sparksbloom - How shall spending be handled?
  • The Cut Of Your Jib

:siren: The winner this week will judge week 501 not week 500! :siren:

Staggy fucked around with this message at 10:27 on Feb 26, 2022

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

rohan posted:

I am in and would like something for my characters to fight over, please

Marmalade: peel or no peel?

Chairchucker posted:

in and gimme, can I request a not depressing thing please and thankyou

The quickest way home.

Bad Seafood posted:


Gimme something petty.

Who bought the toaster?

Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

In, give me something goofy and hyperspecific.

Breakfast tea: do you add the milk first or the water first?

Thranguy posted:

In, give me something.

What shade of blue is that?

CaligulaKangaroo posted:


Conflict please!

How soon is too soon to respond to a message?

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Signups are closed.

As a reminder, the winner of this week will judge week 501, not week 500.

If anyone who signed up this week and didn't request a prompt conflict would like one, feel free to ask away (but keep in mind a judge may not be around to assign one at the last minute).

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

:siren: Submissions are closed :siren:

As a reminder, the winner this week will judge week 501. The shenanigans for week 500 may or may not kick off before this week's results are posted.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

:siren: Belated Week 499 Results :siren:

Not to interrupt the festivities of Week 500 but there's the little matter of who won week 499 and will be judging week 501.

There was a fair bit of judge disagreement this week and while my co-judges were helpful and informative, ultimately the heavy decision of who made the Good Words comes down to me.

The winner is Bad Seafood with A Tale of Two Toasters.

The HM goes to Chairchucker with Backseat Trolley Problem.

The DM goes to nobody! That's right, there were no DMs this week!

The loss goes to BabyRyoga with Three's a Crowd.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Week 499 Crits

The Cut Of Your Jib - The Hard Sell Link

My first thought with your opening was that you spent too much time on description and scene-setting for 1,000 words. After a second thought, though, I like it. You’re building real character, both between the actual characters and the house. Might come back to bite you in the rear end if you run out of words, though.

But you keep drawing me back in. And honestly, that’s a nice, bittersweet ending.

Not a lot happens but there’s enough, I think.

Chairchucker - Backseat Trolley Problem Link

You have no idea how hard I was rolling my eyes when the UFO showed up. I think you just pulled it off.

This was a fun read. A bit silly, which isn’t a sin, and a bit thin in places but you nailed the humour of the ending. I don’t really have much more to say.

CaligulaKangaroo - Texts Link

Really going for the bitter in bittersweet, huh?

I quite like the use of text messages here but the opening three were confusing because it felt like the recipient - and therefore the reader’s p.o.v. - changed between #2 and #3. As I wrote this crit I realised it was probably more like a WhatsApp situation where it does show the sender of each message in a chain, rather than the recipient just seeing the sender’s name. Maybe that’s just me showing my age! (A bold statement to make at the (boss) baby-faced age of 30.) So I can’t actually say whether you needed to change this up or not.

The present tense felt grating in a way that I can’t properly describe. I think it’s probably just that there are one or two tense shifts (“Dad gets frustrated”, etc.) that might have needed another editing pass.

Otherwise, good work! I like that you actually managed to cram a bit of character development in for Tony at the end (“You better text her back”). The reconciliation felt a little rushed/pat and the conflict between the two brothers felt a little shallow at times (good idea, needed developing a bit more) but otherwise, I liked this.

Rohan - Not quite hot noodles Link

You cram a lot into the wordcount. This felt especially dense to read thanks to the jargon, which you front-loaded quite a lot. If that’s what you were going for, fine - but it wouldn’t kill you to drop some of it.

I think the “gamma planet” is a good example. It isn’t explained and while not everything has to be explained, I didn’t really get much more out of its inclusion. It didn’t spark any sense of mystery or expand the world for me. It could have been a great setup for why the protagonists are attacked at the end, what their motivations and goals are, anything - but it just isn’t.

I went back and forth on this. On the one hand, the conflict comes fairly late on and doesn’t have a huge impact on the story, which is a shame. On the other hand, this is competently told and there is a clear rift between the characters throughout. And the conflict does at least lead into the resolution.

There are just a lot of loose threads. It was fun but needs tidying up - even for the flash fiction approach to worldbuilding.

BabyRyoga - Three’s a Crowd Link

That’s a fun twist you’ve got there. I always appreciate a surprising take on a prompt.

I just don’t care about anyone in the story. They argue but there’s no real meat to the argument; just two assholes bickering. There aren’t any stakes, really, until the homeowner turns up - and then you’ve got a frantic flurry of physical activity and then you’re done.

There are several stories this week where not much actually happens in terms of physical change (which isn’t surprising given the prompt) but they managed to bring in some sense of weight; like these were people invested in the outcome of the argument. I don’t quite think you managed to capture that here.

Thranguy - Dangerous Criminals Link

Fun take on the prompt, the conflict is introduced ASAP and you leave it to the reader to fill in some of the blanks. You’re starting strong here.

… and there’s a very competently executed twist.

Maybe I’m a sucker for bickering crooks but I really enjoyed this story. Your character work was strong - I got a distinctly different impression from all three characters. I don’t really have a ton else to say - after drat-near 500 weeks, it’s almost like you know what you’re doing or something.

Bad Seafood - A Tale of Two Toasters Link

This is gloriously petty.

Oh gently caress he chucked it out of the window.

More than anyone else this week, you captured the “completely disproportionate reaction” element of the prompt. Strong, distinct voices between the two characters, good dialogue, clean prose - well done! What else can I say?

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Gimme something from Dr Cindy's Box.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, Omega, fill my blanks and #spinthewheel.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Omega Prompt #1 - Ringside Manner
A muscle man agonises over a little duck.
Wheel: Door Prize!
992 / 1,000 words

“Ooh yeah,” Doc Pocalypse crooned, “the doctor is in!”

He flexed, popping several shirt buttons and revealing the glistening striations of pectoralis major. The faint smell of baby oil filled the office and across the desk, Conway’s nose wrinkled.

“I said maybe,” he replied, sliding the crumpled flyer (Legacy Show! Open Auditions!) back towards the towering man. “Look, my dad raved about you but you’re not exactly … current.”

“The good doctor doesn’t mind,” Doc said, his teeth and shades glinting. “Time to make his rounds again!”

Conway winced. “A lot’s changed since you were last in the ring, Glen. The crowd wants more than a ten dollar labcoat and a fake stethoscope. They want a show.”

“Then I guess ol’ Doc’s gonna remind them -”

Doc Pocalypse paused, lowering his shades and widening his grin.

“- why it’s called an operating theatre.”

“Sure,” Conway said, rolling his eyes. “Look, we need a Heel for The Don. You gonna show up on time and say your lines?

The grin hardened.

“Been doing this longer than you’ve been alive,” Doc rumbled.

Conway didn’t back down. “You gonna show up sober and remember your lines?”

The bigger man wilted.

“... yeah,” he said eventually, eyes hidden once more, “only, I was kinda hoping … well, when I saw the flyer I was kinda hoping you maybe needed a Face. Always wanted to play a Face.”

Conway’s smile was slick. “Well sure,” he said, “maybe if this show goes well.”

Doc Pocalypse clenched his fist, a seam giving way as his biceps bulged.

Ooh yeah,” he crooned.


Doc Pocalypse stared down at The Don.

“Now, this is key,” Conway was saying, “two seasons back the Zooconomist teamed up with -”

“A duck.”


“Well not exactly,” Conway said. “See the -”

“You want me to fight a duck!?”

The ring was silent, save for happy duck noises. The Don was tiny and yellow and stomping around its wire cage in the ring’s centre. Now and then it stopped to preen.

“Oh what are you, PETA?” Conway snapped. “See, it’s fine, look -”

He stepped down onto the cage, sending The Don into a flapping panic. Doc was a second from tackling Conway before he noticed the cage sinking smoothly into the floor; when Conway stepped back it rose again.

“It’s fine,” Conway said with a sneer. “You just need to drop a table on it and it’ll pop down, safe and sound.”

“I’m not fighting a duck,” Doc said, jabbing a finger at Conway. “What’s the matter, no puppies for me to kick?”

“It’s fine,” Conway snarled. “You don’t want to do this? I’ve got a dozen college kids lined up for a chance, just a chance, at getting in this ring. You think Doc Pocalypse is too good for this?”

Doc felt his hands start to tremble and clenched his fists tight. “No, I -”

“What do you want to do, Glen?”

Doc Pocalypse stared down at the kid half his age in the smart suit and shiny watch. He stared down further, at his own scuffed shoes and the fresh canvas of the ring.

“Just worried about the face turn,” he said. The Don clattered its beak against the cage bars. “Might be hard to make people cheer for me, later.”

“You let us worry about that.”

Conway’s smile was so slick, so fake, that Doc wanted to grab him by the shoulders and scream at him, ask him if he knew the first thing about acting or putting on a show -

But he didn’t.

“Ooh yeah,” he said softly.


The crowd roared and the lights flared and Doc Pocalypse was drunk on the energy. Some announcer he didn’t know was screaming something about the match and some young upstart of a Face was posturing from atop the ropes.

The Don fluttered around its cage, beak open, voice drowned out. He was down but rising, when he saw the referee turn their back; saw his opponent take the hint and turn to face the crowd too, waving their arms.

Leaving Doc Pocalypse in the ring with The Don and a discarded folding table an arm’s reach away.

“Doc’s got a prescription for pain,” Doc muttered to himself as he stood. The crowd couldn’t have heard him but they booed anyway.

“Doc Pocalypse is gonna put you in traction,” he shouted and this time he was sure the crowd must have heard because the boos increased. The Don was a tiny speck of yellow somewhere out there in the ring.

“Dirty Doc’s gonna -” he roared and the crowd roared back.

So small.

“Gonna -”

His hands shook as he grasped at the table, rattling its legs. The crowd must have figured it out because now there were gasps and cries for the ref to turn, to stop this monster.

Somebody, anybody, save me from Doc Pocalypse!

Doc dropped the table. Glen grabbed for the microphone hanging from the ceiling. He didn’t know if Conway was watching but Glen hoped he was.

“Doc’s got a dirty secret,” he roared, and the crowd roared back. “All these years of lies! Calling myself ‘Doc’ when actually -”

He flexed harder than he’d ever flexed before and the sleeves of his labcoat exploded away from his arms. His biceps bulged as sweat ran down his forehead and he posed for the crowd.

“- I’m a veterinarian! Just check out these sick pythons!”

He bent down and ripped the cage from the floor, bringing it up to rest on his shoulder as The Don fluttered and quacked in excitement. The crowd’s confusion turned to cries of support. His opponent turned and jumped down, unsure - but then he took Glen’s unsteady kick like a champ, flying back into the ropes.

Glen turned to face the crowd. The Don quacked in his ear and Glen rose the cage above his head, triumphant.

“Ooh yeah!” he crooned into the microphone, as security swarmed towards the ring. The crowd crooned back.


Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Also I am in for Omega Prompt #2. Spin the wheel and give me a flash rule, please and thank you.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Omega Prompt #2 - Sleepwalking
800 / 1,000 words
Wheel: -300 words (1,000 total)
Flash: Your protagonist has not slept for three nights straight.

Andrew had been awake for 73 hours, some minutes and a blurry number of seconds. The second hand on his watch slid slowly round and the numbers it traced raced ahead of his lagging mind. When a leaf landed on his watch face, it took him … time to realise. More time to think to brush it away. More time to do it.

He stepped into the cool shade of the forest at something minutes past 10 in the morning. The rush of dawn energy had carried him from his static flat, every inch of it explored over the past three, fruitless nights, and to here, the edge of the forest, in search of … something. Sleep. Something that would help him finally, finally sleep. The rocking of the bus hadn’t done it but surely there had to be … something.

Andrew’s mind crawled as he stepped under the canopy. The inside of the forest matched the inside of his head, all soft lights and fuzzy edges. The trees twisted around him and dark shapes darted through the corners of his vision and when he had finally escaped the sound of traffic he collapsed into the roots of the nearest tree, pushing his body into the bark. He scrunched up his eyes and willed the pounding in his temples to stop and just let him go.

He drifted - until the crying of a bird startled his thoughts alive again.

He dozed - until his twisting leg found a thorn that shocked him awake again.

He dreamt, almost - until the crunching of a branch hit ancient instincts and he pushed himself groggily into a sitting position, scrambling for his glasses.

A viking warrior stood in front of him.

The warrior’s metal helmet glinted in the dappled light. Chainmail clinked softly under heavy furs; one hand rested on the head of an axe looped through a belt. The warrior stared Andrew down, eyes dark and hidden, face shifting slowly in the half-light.

Andrew’s watch read … something after 10. Unbidden, a word trickled slowly through his head.


The warrior didn’t speak. Didn’t move. Just stared at Andrew until Andrew had pulled his leaden body up the side of the tree and to his feet. Then, the warrior turned, silent, and stalked off along the path. After some time, they stopped. Turned. Looked back.

Andrew’s mind was the world’s slowest pinball machine but eventually a thought bounced its way to the forefront.

Why not?

He stumbled after the warrior, who waited until Andrew had almost caught up before turning and stalking off once more. Andrew followed - the pace was slow but oh so challenging, fatigue pulling him down and down. The trees churned and for a second Andrew thought he saw someone walking beside him - it took him a second longer to be startled and several seconds more to realise his mistake.

The warrior trudged on.

Through glade and brook. Under low hanging branches and over rotting stumps. Andrew never quite caught up to the warrior, whose stride was long and confident, but never quite fell behind either. His thoughts were still slow and they eventually congealed.

Where is he taking me?

A distant rumbling. Andrew’s watch still read 10 … something.

Do I care?

By the time they reached the curtain of light between the trees, Andrew’s thoughts had stilled almost entirely, his legs trudging on through inertia alone. The viking warrior gestured for Andrew to step through, into the unknown and Andrew almost stumbled to a halt - but then his legs carried him through and he was blind, heavy arms raised in a vain attempt to ward off the light.

When his eyes adjusted, slowly, he found himself a dozen metres from the bus stop. A car rumbled down the road past him. The digital display over the bus stop rolled a new message around.

Next bus in 13 minutes.

A leather glove clapped Andrew on the shoulder - the viking warrior pulled him close and gestured at a sign at the side of the road. It took Andrew several seconds to focus and the words to filter through.

“Trail ahead. Map recommended.”

The weight lifted from Andrew’s shoulder as the viking walked away, tapping the word “map” as he passed the sign. Andrew could only stare as they walked to a waiting car, climbing inside after a short bark of conversation. The car pulled out and away and left Andrew alone.

Next bus in 12 minutes.

The sudden absence of the viking warrior left an inexplicable hole in the scene. His feet found the pavement and his body found the bench; Andrew slumped against the side of the shelter and his eyes slid down to his watch. 10:49. Exactly.

A yawn rose from his throat and grew into a smile.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In for Omega The Third.

Spin that wheel.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Omega Prompt #3 - The Wizard
237 / 250 words
Wheel: Nope!

The wizard mutters a spell and conjures warmth, as thick and golden as honey, from the 4-bar heater. The workbench is a secret world above you until giant hands raise you up to the edge of the worn, cold wood. Calloused fingers steal your nose and muss your hair and guide your eyes to the centre of the bench.

Tools, picked with a wizard’s trick from a bottomless toolbox, surround the old TV remote. The wizard nods and pulls back the plastic cover; spills forth the remote’s secrets. They point and you look but you can’t understand, only watch, as the deft touch of a metal pen makes the metal hiss and flow. They breathe life back into the remote.

The wizard makes you hot Ribena on the stove and rubs their cheek against yours, scratching you with salt-and-pepper bristles until you laugh so hard you can barely breathe. As you drink, they whistle a tune that makes your mum blush and scold. You try to whistle it too but the notes come out wrong - the wizard doesn’t mind. Just laughs and hugs you tight. You smell sawdust and burnt plastic.

They carry you back to the house in the crook of their arm and point out the rising moon. You grip tight to their woollen hat and wonder when you’ll be old and wise like them, with all the secrets of the universe in your head.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In for #4. Wizard me and spin me.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Give me a Friday Night Party Spin, please and thank you.


Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Omega Prompt #4 - Still Life
1,284 / 1,300 words
You can bring your drawings and paintings to life! However, you can’t re-paint or re-draw them once you’ve done so, no matter how badly you want to.
Wheel: Chili treat!

It took Aviar Temmish, Aviar Inkfinger, a full twenty days to muster the courage - among other things - to climb the chapel steps and see his husband’s body, pushing past the crowd of mourners that still thronged the marble hall. Ivor Temmish - Ivor the Wise - had been court wizard for a century and the crowd counted the most rarefied nobility among its numbers - yet all quickly found other places to be, leaving Aviar alone as bands of iron grief wrapped his chest and drove the air from his lungs. He collapsed to the floor, spilling the sheath of paper across the tiles.

It was only the clack of tiles on stone and the smell of sulfur that anchored him in the present. Gimlet - Ivor’s imp familiar - skulked out of the shadows, vile leathery wings twitching.

“My condolences,” the imp said in its scratchy tone.

“Begone, devil!” Aviar spat, wiping his tears on the back of his hand and flinging them at the familiar.

“Alas,” Gimlet muttered, “a week remains until I am unbound. The old man was most insistent that I still had duties to perform.”

“Then be about them!” Aviar cried. “Be about them anywhere but here; leave me to mourn in peace.”

Aviar reached down for the papers but a bolt of flame washed across the marble floor, sending him sprawling back with only a single sheet, as the rest crumbled to ash.

“Treachery!” he spluttered. Gimlet stood still, smoke trailing from its fingertips, eyes locked on Aviar. “You’ll not get another chance!”

Ink streamed from the bottle on his hip, coiling down to his fingertips as Aviar scratched hurriedly across the remaining sheet of paper. In his long lifetime he’d had cause to draw many restraints and only a handful remained to him - but in a few deft strokes he’d captured the very essence of knotted cords, the sparse lines hinting at hidden strength.

With a flash, the paper vanished and the cords appeared around Gimlet, holding the imp fast. The image of them faded from Aviar’s mind.

“This is how you serve my beloved?” Aviar advanced on Gimlet. “You would see me join him so soon? Spare me from such a devil’s mercy!”

“I do as I am bid,” Gimlet rasped. The imp seemed untroubled. “Can you say the same?”

Despite his rage, despite the thousand things he had pictured in his mind for retaliation, that caused Aviar to pause. “What poisoned words are these?”

“At the end, on his deathbed, the old man bid you let him go,” the imp replied. “He saw what you were planning. But still, a full twenty days to get the colours right? I would have guessed half that.”

Aviar’s hand moved unconsciously to his breast pocket and the wooden case therein. “I had trouble with his eyes …” he muttered softly, unknowingly.

“And so he set me,” Gimlet said, “his final watchdog.” For the first time, a trace of bitterness crept into its voice.

In a burst of flame, it tore free from the cords and leapt for Aviar; it hit him with enough force to bowl the wizard over, talons slashing through his robes. Aviar hit the floor and Gimlet ripped its talons back - sending shards of wood and multicoloured clouds of pigment flying across the chapel. The white stone was stained the colours of Ivor - the ochre tan of his skin, the ivory of his hair and the sea-foam blue of his eyes.

“Monster,” Aviar whispered. The imp was a tear-blurred lump on his chest; he pushed at it to no avail. Gimlet just sat and glared down at him, as heavy as it needed to be to keep him pinned.

“I am what I was made to be,” Gimlet replied.

Aviar spat at the imp, while scratching furiously on the floor by his side, hoping that the familiar wouldn’t notice. As Gimlet wiped the spittle from its cheek, Aviar blindly traced lines he’d known his entire life through the scattered pigments. He felt a memory fade from his mind just as Gimlet opened its mouth to speak - only for a furry mass to slam into it from the side, freeing Aviar. He scrambled to his feet as the shape of his childhood dog - now an empty space in his memories - tore at the imp. Its fur was the exact colour of Ivor’s eyes.

Aviar staggered over to the shards of wood, looking for any big enough to draw on - only for the conjured dog to fly past him, unravelling into pigment and ash. He turned, to see Gimlet climb impassively to its feet.

“Go ahead,” the imp replied. It gestured at the casket on its catafalque. “The old man bid me do my best to stop you but you’ll clearly not be dissuaded. Try and deny your grief, if you can.”

Aviar waited but the imp remained still, arms crossed, eyes staring into him. When he was sure no hidden strike was coming, he gathered the scraps of wood and scooped up what pigment he could. He tore an official portrait - mundanely serious and capturing none of Ivor’s charm - from its frame and flipped it over for the blank canvas on the back. As Gimlet watched, Aviar summoned ink and began to sketch.

The curve of Ivor’s cheeks. The jagged wrinkles around his eyes, always half-smiling. The jut of his chin and the curve of his shoulders and the long planes of his legs. Aviar didn’t have to think, didn’t even have to look - though he couldn’t help but stare at his husband, so still and so empty. He’d wanted to be here so he could make sure that every last line was perfect but the more he looked, the more he saw all the things he couldn’t capture. No ink could show the early mornings watching the sun rise from their tower; no hue could capture the gentle strength in Ivor’s fingers as he kneaded dough in their kitchen, robes covered in flour.

Aviar mentally prodded the dog-shaped hole in his childhood memories, like a tongue feeling out an empty tooth socket. The dog that had lived and died all over again at his whim.

“What’s the matter?” Gimlet said, harsh and mocking. “Don’t stop now - and don’t forget the leash.”

Aviar’s hand paused on the canvas. The figure was there - as tall and imposing as in life - and he had just started to add colour, roughing in the dark blues of Ivor’s favourite robes.

“You served Ivor for fifty years,” he said, eyes not leaving the picture, “Tell me, devil: did you hate him, in the end?”

A deep snort of derision came from the imp. “How could I? Is the vase permitted to hate the potter?” Then, with a slick undertone of dark glee: “Could the painting hate the painter?”

“How could it not?” Aviar whispered.

Tears began to trickle silently down his cheeks. With an effort of will he pulled the pigment from the canvas and cast it aside; reached instead for the dark reds that had been destined for the background. With rough, jagged slashes he traced bone and talons and sweeping, leathery wings. It was a quick, ugly work that Gimlet didn’t understand until Aviar was pulling it from the page, conjuring a stooped body double of the familiar by his side. The memory of the damned imp was finally exorcised from his mind.

“A companion for your final week,” he said, voice dull, “if you can stand the company.”

Gimlet just snarled in response. Aviar didn’t look back, leaving the two imps in the chapel amidst the mess. He left footprints in the pigment as he went and took only his memories with him.

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