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Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.



Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

this guy is nasty, he is friends with all the bugs, every bug, my guy is just crawling with the loving things
The Prisoner (682 words)

It was merely a horse. It had done nothing wrong.

It stumbled as it moved, never quite falling, its stomach burst open and trailing behind. Its entrails hung loose like a sea trawler’s net, slack against the shore, coiled and wet. It hadn’t noticed. They’d taken its eyes.

The old man kept a respectful distance.

“You there,” he called out, “Have you the time? Seems a bit late for one of your business.”

The horse stopped and turned and grinned. The skin around its mouth had been surgically removed; it’s teeth as well, replaced with gold.

“Time is all that I have… or require…”

The old man chuckled. “Sounds like you speak for us all.”

The horse’s nostrils flared. The man sat unseen, a delicate pipe between his fingers. The scent of root and fire and incense. His cloak stank of earth and his hat smelt of rain. Beneath both he clicked and chirped and squirmed.

“I see you are no stranger to the sky,” said the horse. “A magician, then? Or a highwayman? I’ve no inclination to suffer rank trickery. I am burdened with purpose, bound to the East. Leave me to my mission, and meddle not in my affairs.”

“You seek a place to die?”

“To live forever!”

The horse grit its teeth and resumed its gait. A tract of intestine, looped ‘round a rock, caught and burst forth offal and blood.

“Old fool. You’re a walking corpse.”

“I am not this temporary thing, this prison of flesh. I am anointed!”

“You’re heading for a village.” The old man chewed on the stem of his pipe. “Your rotting carcass will poison them all. And when your blood drains into the valley, it will taint the soil and the water and the earth.”

“The blood of kings!” The horse snapped, and knew it to be true. The old songs lingered in the mind and the heart. The old man knew them well enough himself. Beautiful lies that turned pain into power. The power to continue, to do harm with pride.

“With respect, your highness, I cannot allow you passage.”

“You seek to sully my sacrifice.”

“The dignity of rest without senseless waste.”

“Then stain your hands, blasphemer. Run your fingers raw and red. My soul is prepared. I have been anointed.”

The old man’s eyes flickered with sorrow. Such a pitiable beast. “What a crime they have done to you. Can you not feel where their knives have left you empty? You would suffer this cruelty and call it kindness?”

“There are few who can.” The horse stood defiant.

The old man stood. He looked at the creature, that eloquent corpse. How lovely it was beneath the rot. How lovely it might have been again. He extended his arm.

From his sleeve, his collar, poured out his servants, a chittering mass the horse knew by sound. A writhing storm of wings and buzzing surrounded the animal, enveloping its senses. The horse reared up on its hind legs, toppling back, ensnared by the reach of yet more insects from the earth. In concert they ebbed and gnawed and flowed.

But the horse would not die. Not until the last morsel of flesh had been plucked from its bones. The purpose which bound him prevented his resignation. It screamed and cried until its voice was indistinguishable from the gurgle of blood seeping from its wounds. The insects drank that wine and found it sweet. Down to the bone they chewed and swallowed.

The old man looked on, his hat in his hands. He would not look away. He stared down deep into the eyeless sockets. One by one, its gold teeth fell loose.

Bloated, engorged, the insects returned. The old man extended a leathery hand, inviting them back within the folds of his cloak. They nestled here and there in the hollows of his frame, clinging to the skin, chirping through the hair. He affixed his hat and considered the bones. Soon enough the sea would sweep in and claim them.

It was merely a horse. It had done nothing wrong.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Gimme a friend.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Discord Nae posted:

What We Remember (820 words)

The move had been delayed. The woman, Dorothy, was tired. Very tired. The child, Dorothy, did not yet understand. It’d been a long month, longer still in the living. Two days more was two too many.

But the woman smiled. The frustrations were hers. She asked the child if she wanted to go out, one last time, and the child said yes. It was starting to rain but that didn’t matter. They needed to get out from this naked apartment. It’d been theirs once, but every scrap of identity had been taken down and disappeared, packed tightly into cardboard boxes.

There was the click of a lightswitch, the door, then the key, and the room fell silent, and remained so for a time. Through curtainless windows the sky churned gray, the arrival of the rain signaled by the sound.

Cody peered out from within his box. The raindrops called him to the table by the window, one of five bits of furniture which were not theirs to take. Hearing no footsteps, Cody was emboldened, and wriggled free of his cardboard prison.

Cody was a bear and, though he didn’t look it, was getting to be quite venerable in years. He had been given to the woman, Dorothy, when she had been the child, and though the child had changed, the name was the same. He marched with purpose toward the window, the table. He climbed up a chair and looked out to the sky. For eyes he’d been given two polished black marbles. In them reflected whatever he saw.

“What are you doing?”

Agatha, from the box, was inquisitive as ever. In two years there’d been no end to her questions.

“Remembering,” said Cody. He did not turn around.

Agatha crept from the box, second-guessing every step, her over-long snout sweeping the floor. Agatha was an anteater. The child loved them. She had long displaced Cody as the child’s new favorite. Agatha knew this, and approached with care.

“What are you remembering?” The rain tapped against the glass.

“The view.”

“The view?” Agatha hung her head. Her eyes, also marbles, were dark and empty. “The view is right here! You don’t need to remember that.”

“I will,” said Cody, “And I want it to be right.”

Agatha looked over her shoulder, shrouded in the shadow of cardboard towers. The others had been buried, packed away, or sent ahead. It was just her and Cody. She sniffled, and climbed.

Cody sat still as she clambered up to the table. He didn’t look back even as she stood, huddled, shuddering behind him. Sensing that she had completed her venture, he scooted to the side to allow her a seat. She was a good deal larger than him, and his gesture of politeness left him almost by the edge. Agatha combed her nose with her hand, and scuttled up after to fill the void.

The world outside was cast in dull, bluish grays, the details of the people obscured by umbrellas. But the lights were on and the shops were open, and cars continued to funnel down the street.

“They look so sad.”

“That’s just how they look.”

“You look sad, too!”

Cody said nothing.

Agatha rubbed her hands together. She knew, of course, that the glass kept them safe, but gazing below…not quite safe enough. She shuddered, again, and combed back her nose.

“We’re up so high.”

“We always were.”

Agatha scratched at her neck. “Is it scary?” For the first time, Cody turned.

“Is what scary?”


“It’s…uncomfortable,” Cody said, “But I wouldn’t say it’s scary.”

“I don’t like it.” Agatha shook her head. “They take your friends away and put you in a box. I’ve been in a box before. It’s dark and hard to sleep, and there’s no room to move.”

“Even less when you share it,” Cody added, a tinge of annoyance in his words. Agatha shrunk back, hands over her head. Cody, catching himself, continued, “But it’s better than being alone.”

Agatha touched the tip of her snout with a lone, thoughtful finger. “Oh! I suppose that’s true.” She was silent for a time, until finally asking, “Will Dorothy be okay?”

“Dorothy is strong.”

“But she must be so lonely. We’ll see all our friends on the other side, but Dorothy will never see her friends again.”

“Loneliness is something everyone endures.” Cody lowered his gaze. “That is why memories are so important. You need to remember it wasn’t always like this.”

“What if you have bad memories?”

“Then you must work to replace them with good ones.”

“I see.” Agatha considered the traffic below. “Is this a good memory?”

“It will be.” Cody looked back to Agatha. She saw herself reflected in his eyes, and he in hers. “A quiet spring morning with rain… and a friend.”

“Oooh!” Agatha buried her snout with her hands. She embraced Cody. He did not protest.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Gimme something petty.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Staggy posted:

Who bought the toaster?
A Tale of Two Toasters (1,030 words)

The toaster was the last item pulled from the bag, an inviting turquoise, small and compact. Jeffrey placed it with both hands at the center of the table. Andy glanced up from the crumpled receipt.

“That everything?”


Jeffrey sat down among the vegetables, the cereals, the spoils of war. It had been Andy’s turn but Andy had been busy. Jeffrey didn’t mind. He enjoyed the walk. The two men subsisted in a shoebox apartment, a coffin overlooking a deep, blue bay. Andy had his laptop open. He entered the expenditures, seemingly satisfied.

“Right,” he said. He pocketed the receipt. He reached for his wallet and thumbed through the bills. Selecting a creased, slightly crinkled one hundred, he tossed it on the table and tapped it twice. Jeffrey’s eyes flickered down to the money, a quiet concern in his furtive glance.

“And seven,” he added, not as casually as he hoped. Andy had already started to rise.


“You’ve got the receipt. A hundred and seven. Seven thirty-seven, but you can keep the change.”

Andy regarded his roommate with a dim confusion, as though he couldn’t be sure this moment was real.

“What are you talking about?”

“A hundred and seven!” Jeffrey said, his words accompanied by the sound of his stool scooting across the floor. He rounded the table in a few short hops. “There!” He pointed at Andy’s finances. “A hundred and seven dollars.”

Andy drew his hand to his forehead, sighing. He scratched his head, his mop of hair, and sat back down.

“Jeffrey, we’ve-

He was interrupted by the sound of a broom against the ceiling - their floor - of the apartment below. Jeffrey scooted his stool one last time, either in acknowledgement or petty counter-protest. Andy waited for him to finish.

“We’ve worked this out, we split the groceries: a hundred each.” He gestured towards his contribution. “Alternating.” He nodded.

“Toaster’s not groceries. It’s a personal item.”

“It’s a kitchen item.”

“That only you use.”

“You can use it, too.”

“But I don’t,” said Jeffrey, “And I won’t.” He grabbed a box of cereal, shaking it ominously, his eyes transfixed on Andy. Andy’s own eyes greeted him with a dull exhaustion.

“You’d have time if you woke up earlier.”

“No I wouldn’t. You’d be using it.”

Well would you like me to make you some toast?” Andy said as he stood up, this time fully, turning out from his chair with a kind of flourish, his back to his roommate.

“Not especially.”

Andy combed his hair with his hands. “It’s seven dollars, Jeffrey.”

Thirty-seven, actually,” said Jeffrey. He leaned back on the stool, his back against the wall. He’d taken a cross-legged position during their conversation, and idly laid one hand on his ankle. “So you’ll need to factor that in too.” He tapped his nose. “For your own budget.”

“Thirty… Jeffrey, the whole reason we came up with this plan was to keep things simple. It’s a kitchen item, anyone can use it, it’s part of the groceries.”

“Like your coffee maker?”

“That… was a gift.” Andy mouthed empty air. “And you don’t drink coffee.”

“Not the point. It’s yours. It’s in the kitchen and I don’t use it. If this whole apartment block burned down, you’d grab it. It’s a personal item.”

“Yes, in that case… it is. The toaster isn’t.”

“You were the one who said you were thinking of getting a new toaster!” Jeffrey sprung from the stool, his full height considerable. “It wasn’t even added to the list yet. I thought I was doing you a favor.” He pointed at his own chest, as if accusing himself of some crime.

“You were!”

“It was your turn!”

“It was! It was! And you did it, you picked everything up! And I, I paid you!”

“Not for the toaster you didn’t!”

“Because it’s our toaster.”

“No, it’s my toaster until you give me that seven dollars.”

I don’t have seven dollars, I’ve got.” Andy grit his teeth, his skull quivering. “I’ve got three hundreds, I’d need to go to the bank.”

“Well the ATM machine’s just down the way, let’s go brosephus.”

“What, you need seven dollars right now?”

“As a matter of fact I do Andy! As a matter of a fact-

“Forget it.” Andy threw up his hand and turned toward the sofa.


“Forget it! Andy fell back onto cushions, “Now I ain’t doing it just on principle.”

“Well fine.” Jeffrey put one hand on each side of the toaster. “Then say hello to my new toaster.”

“Fine, fine, whatever man. Can I borrow your toaster, Jeffrey?”

“Oh absolutely.” He picked it up. “Let me just go get it.” He turned around and hurled it out the window.

Andy’s eyes went wide. He jolted for the window. He wasn’t alone, either. No sooner had the toaster left his grasp, a cold realization bloomed on Jeffrey’s face. He scrambled after his emotional missile, reaching for the cord.

The toaster sailed out, out into the sky, a majestic brick in pastel blue. It completed its arc and plummeted down, down down, into the sea.

Andy and Jeffrey watched it all from their pinhole apartment.

“Holy poo poo,” said Jeffrey, “Andy, I-

But Andy wasn’t listening. He had burst out laughing, slumped against the windowsill, one arm hanging out. An infectious sound, it soon found itself in Jeffrey’s gut, then his throat. He collapsed as well, a stupid giggle reverberating throughout his whole body.

“That,” Andy struggled to speak, “Was the stupidest… ha ha ha ha!”

“Someone… someone could’a,” Jeffrey attempted, a sense of responsibility welling up within him, but the laughter was too much. He collapsed again. The sound of the broom from below only made it worse. At long last, after what felt like minutes, the two helped each other to their feet.

“That was…” Andy clicked his tongue. “That was something.”

“It was stupid,” Jeffrey said, “I was stupid. I’m… I’m sorry.”

“It’s… it’s fine.” Andy assured him. “You… you need anything?”

“Nah, ha ha, no no, I’m good. You?”

“Well.” Andy looked at him. “I could use another toast-

Again their laughter summoned the broom.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
It’s in the Back (476 words)

The backroom aisles stretched infinitely onward, laden with stock, mass-produced, wrapped in plastic. Someone, an intern perhaps, had affixed a post-it note pointing the way. Bruce offered a quick, two-finger salute.

Freya, from corporate, frowned.

“You’re sure it’s back here.”

“Baby, if we don’t have it, nobody has it.”

Freya clicked her tongue, then her pencil. She added a tick to a column on her clipboard, a running tally of babes, baby, doll, and the like. Bruce’s performance review was in her hands.

The two of them rounded the corner. Against the shelves slumped a lone skeleton, long-since bleached by substandard warehouse lighting, clad only in a faded on-brand apron.

Bruce took note and bowed his pompadour, his hands together. “Shift’s over, friend,” he said, then, “Oh, right. Better rehydrate.” He pulled a hip flask and raised it to his lips. Empty. “Hmm.” Re-corking it, he glanced to upper rungs of the complex. There, precariously perched, sat a selection of plastic water bottles. Taking aim, he hurled the flask, and managed to knock one down. Catching it as it fell, he twisted off the top.

“Ahem.” Freya tapped her foot.

“Oh, right!”

Bruce reached into his pocket. “Two, right?”

“Three. We’re in a recession.”

Bruce pressed three crumpled bills into Freya’s outstretched palm. She held up each to the scrutiny of the LED bulbs above while Bruce slaked his thirst on ache-two-oh. Satisfied, she smoothed out the bills. Folded into a perfect square, she tucked them within the confines of her suit.

She looked up to Bruce. He was offering her a drink.

“Appreciated,” she said, “But unnecessary.” She waved him off. Everyone knew upper management didn’t subsist on water.

“Suit yourself, babe.” Bruce winked. Returning his attention to his fellow departed retail worker, he bent down and examined the bones. A crooked nametag identified the departed as Carl. “Time to clock out, Carl.” Bruce adjusted the tag. “See ya at the big company picnic in the sky.”

Presumes authority to dismiss fellow employees, Freja recorded, including another tick and reminder to review Carl’s timecard, deducting excess wages if unstamped. They were running a business after all, not a charity. She glanced again at the apron-clad corpse. Out of dress code, she added.

Standing up, Bruce adjusted his customer service vest. He offered a Catholic cross with his free hand, the water bottle in the other, then beckoned Freya on. “Right. This way, babe.”

Tick. “And we’re almost there?”

“It’s just around this corner babe; in that you can believe!”


As they approached the far corner, a sound cut through the silence of the stockroom. A small mounted telephone, a company standard red, cried out from the concrete column that held it aloft. “‘Scuze me babe,” Bruce said (tick). He lifted the receiver, his fingers turning, coiled within the cord.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Week 500+1: Welcome to Perfection, Population: 14

Ah, Tremors. An American classic.

Tremors is one of my all-time favorite movies, and the inspiration for this week's prompt. If you've never seen it, it goes like this: Val and Earl are two blue-collar buddies stuck doing gruntwork in Perfection, Nevada; a real nowhere's town in the middle of the desert. One day people start disappearing, getting sucked underground. There's a monster on the loose, and it's up to our boys and their rag-tag community to come together and save the day.

The conceit here is simple: a group of likable weirdos in an isolated location are charged with solving an unusual problem. That's it. That's the prompt.

For your part, I'll allow you up to 1,000 words, with a couple left over in exchange for flash rules. When you sign up, you may request a stipend of likable weirdos, an isolated location, or an unusual problem, or any combination thereof. Each additional rider nets you 200 extra words. Aside from that, you know the rules: no fan-fiction, screeds, or amateur erotica. That said, I have a request. These have been tough times for all of us, and I for one like a happy ending. Don't do me wrong.

Sign-ups are closed at midnight Friday, PST; submissions on Sunday, same time, same zone.

Bad Seafood (that's me!)
Lily Catts

Rohan - A mountain monastery with too many crocodiles
BabyRyoga - A retired metal band visiting a frozen research facility must contend with a love triangle
ZearothK - Petty thieves in cosplay must convince a rogue AI to spare humanity
Thranguy - Professional mini-golfers lost in a nudist colony must solve a murder most foul
Crabrock - Haile Selassie returns to life
ChickenOfTomorrow - Traveling stage magicians patrolling the Eurasian steppes
My Shark Waifuu - Plucky teen detectives trapped in a commune of reclusive artists must kill the correct dog
Bacon Terrorist - The last cowboys exploring a deserted theme park must resolve an ancient prophecy
Nae - A couple of doomsday preppers residing in a derelict lighthouse must win an international cooking competition
Chernobyl Princess - Heavily put-upon staffers must prevent an eldritch incursion
CaligulaKangaroo - Well-meaning hillbillies on a deserted island must uncover a local conspiracy
Gorka - A castle overlooking a rural backwater
Ceighk - Buddy cops investigating a decommissioned missile silo must finish a game that becomes real when you play it
Greatbacon - A bumbling taxi driver and his irritable passengers stall out at an off-road summer camp and must escape a coming flood

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 10:13 on Mar 12, 2022

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

rohan posted:

I am in and I would like an isolated location and an unusual problem please
A mountain monastery with too many crocodiles.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

BabyRyoga posted:

I am in, and I would like one of all three flash rules please!
A retired metal band visiting a frozen research facility must contend with a love triangle.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

ZearothK posted:

In, gimme an unusual problem and some likeable weirdos. Also :toxx: because my last normal week was a fail.
Petty thieves in cosplay must convince a rogue AI to spare humanity.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Thranguy posted:

In, all three.
Professional mini-golfers lost in a nudist colony must solve a murder most foul.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

crabrock posted:

no problem is too weird, plz give me a weird problem
Haile Selassie returns to life.

ChickenOfTomorrow posted:

In! Location and weirdos please.
Traveling stage magicians patrolling the Eurasian steppes.

My Shark Waifuu posted:

In with all 3 please!
Plucky teen detectives trapped in a commune of reclusive artists must kill the correct dog.

Bacon Terrorist posted:

I have only ever done one of these and I lost, however on the advice of the other thread I am back to try again.

In and all three, please.
The last cowboys exploring a deserted theme park must resolve an ancient prophecy.

Nae posted:

In for the Tremors love, give me three things to get weird with.
A couple of doomsday preppers residing in a derelict lighthouse must win an international cooking competition.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Chernobyl Princess posted:

In, give me some weirdos and a problem please
Heavily put-upon staffers must prevent an eldritch incursion.

CaligulaKangaroo posted:

In! Gimme all three!
Well-meaning hillbillies on a deserted island must uncover a local conspiracy.

Gorka posted:

In, give me a location please
A castle overlooking a rural backwater.

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 10:20 on Mar 10, 2022

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Ceighk posted:

in and all three please
Buddy cops investigating a decommissioned missile silo must finish a game that becomes real when you play it.

Greatbacon posted:

I'm in! I'll take the trifecta.
A bumbling taxi driver and his irritable passengers stall out at an off-road summer camp and must escape a coming flood.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Sign-ups are closed.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Submissions are closed.

Those remaining were eaten by graboids.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
:siren: :siren: Week 501 Results :siren: :siren:

This week I asked for likable weirdos in a remote location charged with solving an unusual problem. Most of you gave me at least one of those - some of you even gave me two - but only one of you gave me all three and a pretty solid story to boot, so congratulations to Nae for coming up with the best of a bad lot (that was still pretty good in its own right).

As for the losers, there were a few mediocre submissions this week, but the weakest was easily Bacon Terrorist's poorly-formatted offering; not that better formatting would've saved it, or improved its position, but when a story's bad and also annoying to read, there's really not much competition.

No other mentions, in either direction. Crits coming soon, just as soon as it stops being this particular week. Take it away, Nae.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Gimmie a gem.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Fumblemouse posted:

Attention 'Domers

Perhaps you already know me from 'Domes gone by. To some of you I may be merely a fascinating legend by this point. What you may not know is that I recently won the national lottery! Hooray!

Realistically this means that I will never have to work again. So to keep myself occupied I've been working on a funky little project that I can now announce! I've been in conversation with the original instigators of this here 'dome, and, for a considerable sum, I made my first major purchase (I won't mention zeroes, because gauche, but it was 404 x some order of magnitude. But who's counting? ). I know you're excited to find out what it was, so I'll cut straight to the chase...

I have bought the Intellectual Property rights for the concept of ThunderDome. Huzzah! So excitement, very yay!

Let's be realistic about this, though: Absolutely nothing will change - EXCEPT the entire enterprise will shift to a website of my own creation. And the name, of course. 'ThunderDome'... there are legal issues with Warner Brothers that I don't want to fight - I'm rich, but I'm not that rich. 'ThunderDome', as a name, well, it works for a dead, gay comedy forum, but I'm going drag us kicking and screaming into the 2010s! So from now on this competition will be called...and I know you'll think this is as brilliant as I do:


Obviously this is a huge change, so I'll give you all a moment to let it percolate in your minds and sink in. Click the link above (yes, it's a link, internet warrior) and check it out. I'm sure once you give it due consideration you will be as passionate as I am about the project, which is to say more passionate than la poisson d'Avril Lavigne, a previous high point in passion from an S-tier chanteuse.

Ok - that should be enough thinking. Mulling it over time is now over. I encourage you all to sign up before I figure out how to implement credit card transactions.

Love, your friendly benevolent despot, Fumbley Moose, Esquire
Big if true.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 04:26 on Jan 15, 2023

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
:siren: Week 501 Crits! :siren:

Apologies for the delay. These past few weeks have been a bit draining.

Grey Rabbit - Ceighk

Let's start with the good. This was one of the more readable stories this week, with some haunting imagery sprinkled throughout. A solid sense of place and uncertainty.

As for the rest, well, neither of your characters are particularly likable, nor interesting. Your protagonist is well-meaning in a bland sort of way, while their partner is just a straight-up trope without frills or extras. The game itself seems strange and ephemeral, which is fair enough for a concept like this, but the protagonist's take on the rules feels arbitrary, her decisions abrupt. Things happen in this story because they need to, because otherwise there won't be anything to write about. I'll admit, you had a fair bit to cram in there, but it is what it is.

Varmints - Bacon Terrorist

I don't typically comment on typos or formatting but why, WHY. Break up your paragraphs, separate dialogue, make this thing parsable, please, please. Not that that would've saved it from the bottom: your characters are all interchangably forgetable, accomplish exactly one thing (of dubious import), and then it's over.

Project Cicada - Chernobyl Princess

The first actually likable weirdos this week. Not bad. The story itself is (intentionally) brisk and flippant, which mostly works, but gets a bit choppy by the back half when it's time to wrap things up, and the protagonists read interchangably throughout. Not a real sense of tension here, nor place for that matter. After hours between cubicles isn't exactly a remote, nor evocative, location. Not a story that'll stick with me, but inoffensive enough as a two-mintute sitcom.

A Long Bumpy Road - Greatbacon

I confess, when I returned to my notes for this story, I'd only written one thing: "Meh." I decided to read it again, for the sake of constructive criticism, and yeah, "Meh" pretty much sums it up.

Structurally, your prose is fine, competent. I could follow the action and understood generally what was happening. Narratively, things happen, characters react, on to the next setpiece, aw, look, they do love each other. I feel like I've seen this specific brand of bickering couple movie a dozen times, and the driver is never much more than a cheap excuse for comic relief. The snobby woman who'd rather die than lose her expensive shoes, break a nail, what have you - in particular - is a hated trope of mine. Meh, for sure.

Jessi & Jerome in the Clay Dog Conundrum - My Shark Waifuu

A solid middle-of-the-pack story with one glaring weakness: its over-reliance on refering to things happening off-screen. When I'm reading a short story, I prefer most of it to be happening in the "Now," and the shortcut of referring to extraneous events we weren't privy to can wear thin easily.

Aside from that, competent prose, likable-enough characaters.

The Con - ZearothK

The perfect title, wasted on a meandering setup, culminating in a middling punchline. You've probably heard of saying a lot with a little; this story says a little with a lot. Setting aside the obvious attempts at locking-in various flashrule stipulations, this story has a lot going on in the background, but not so much going on center stage. Our interchangable protagonists (there was a lot of that this week, wasn't there) show up, do a thing, and call it a wrap. Not enough tension for a heist story, not enough funny business for a comedy, not enough focus for a character study.

Kurokodairudandi - Rohan

The second-person story is always a risky play. Third-person's dependable, reliable; first-person's intimate, internal. Second-person, used properly, can invoke a kind of interaction with the audience. I'm not sure this story was well-served by that ambition, even if I am, myself, a cringe weeb.

But yes, the cringe weeb. Or weebs, I should specify. Most of these characters were stock stereotypes of one kind or another. Events happened, and we were party to them. There was a problem, but someone else solved it. In the end, even being generous, this story doesn't amount to much more than a clumsy anecdote.

That said, the bit where the monk is a fan of Australian culture and learned English from Crocoile Dundee was very funny.

The Last Supper - Nae

As far as the prompt's concerned, this was the only story this week that hit all the notes that were specifically asked of it. Well done. Many authors went for a comedic tone, which was fair, but you're one of the few who took it somewhat seriously instead, and delivered. There's some innate ridiculousness, courtesy of the premise, but you make us care about your likable weirdo in pretty short order, and delivered a story with a measure of depth and emotion even. This was the only story that really engaged me this week, where I wanted to know what happened next as each paragraph lead on. A well-deserved win.

Hole in One - Thranguy

I'll take Ran Out of Time for 600, Alex. A solid start to a story that just...ends when the bad guy shows up, reveals himself, and is summarily defeated with little effort or interest. This is also yet another candidate for interchangable protagonists, though at least you kept the dialogue snappy instead of bland.

Jake and CLetus vs. the Utukku - CaligulaKangaroo

A charming but ultimately boilerplate story. Cletus does everything, Jake provides commentary. Of the deliberately humorous submissions, this was definitely the best among that group. Relies a bit too heavily on exposition, devolves into dialogue, but there's something workable underneath it all.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Happy Birthday to Me (1,220 words)

“That’s not true! You’re lying! Liar!”

Maddie maintained her quiet composure. Her little brother, pointing, wide-eyed and trembling, made this difficult. She took a deep breath.

“No, no,” she said, “It’s all right here.” She pointed at the page of an open book. The curl of a smile almost betrayed her.

Sam climbed up one of the wooden stools that encircled the kitchen counter. Maddie had been studying, her books and notes strewn across its surface. Sam followed her finger to a large diagram: a skeleton wearing the body of a man. There were boxes as well, filled with letters, linked by arrows to various parts. Sam furrowed his brow. He knew enough to know these were letters, but not enough to discern their meaning.

“The human body replaces itself every seven years,” Maddie explained, her finger tapping at one of the boxes. “Sorry Sam, but tonight’s the night.”

Sam stared at the box, the diagram, trying to make sense of it. Another, smaller image showed a close-up of the skin. [Cells] were mentioned, whatever they were. He saw the number [7] accompanied by [years].

“But, but my birthday’s tomorrow!”

“Sorry little buddy.” Maddie stopped to swallow, her voice cracking. “That’s just the way… the way that it is.” She was holding back tears.

“But, but!” Sam turned from the book to his sister, and saw the emotion welling in her eyes. He, too, felt the urge to cry, though not (as he thought) for quite the same reason. “But mom and dad! They just went out! They said, they said… they would buy me something!”

“Of course they did.” Maddie glanced to the side. “They’re finding…your replacement! Don’t you remember?”

Sam’s gaze stretched past his sister, into the distance. A previous dinner, a mere week prior, floated and formed within his brain. Their parents had been smiling. “Get ready for another little brother,” they told them. He’d been noticing his mother’s tummy getting larger. She ate when she was stressed; she’d said so herself!

But the stress of replacing one’s own child, to Sam, paled in comparison to being replaced.

“I…I…” He began to cry. “I don’t wanna die!” He fled the room.

Up the stairs, across the landing, he rushed to his room and clutched at the bed. “I don’t wanna die!” He repeated the mantra, his eyes damp with tears, his nose damp with snot. The comforter failed to quell his laments. He reached for a friend. On his bed were assembled a selection of allies, stalwart defenders against the unknown. He grabbed at two, a stuffed tiger and bear, and held them close. His crying subsided.

“What…what am I supposed to do!?” He looked to his stuffed companions for answers. Neither the bear nor the tiger responded. “I don’t wanna die…I don’t wanna die.”

Suddenly, a thought. His body seized up, a solemn sobriety in his face. He only had a few hours left…and he’d almost forgot! He placed the animals on either side of him, his head bowed, hands together. He struggled to remember the all-important words.

“Now I lay me…down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul…to keep! If I…should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

He nodded in affirmation, then collapsed, his formerly serious expression melting into one of morose disappointment. The here-after was covered, but what of today?

Seven years. He gripped the carpet, brow furrowed. “That’s not long at all!” For a while he lay there, sullen and quiet, contemplating the finality of his feeling existence. “I don’t even remember the early parts…”

Speaking the words seem to stir something in him. His eyebrows unknit. He sat up abruptly.

“I didn’t even get to do anything!”

He looked around his room. Here and there were tasks half-finished. Chores undone, homework incomplete, but also games unplayed, and books unread. He looked to the clock: it was [5:14]. He had only had around seven hours till the end; four, when he remembered his bedtime.

“Forget that!” He declared, arms up. “No sleep!” He wobbled to his feet and looked about the room. Piles of clothes, a scattering of toys. “Me Number Two can clean this up,” he decided, arms crossed. He looked to his schoolwork. It was nothing so complicated, he didn’t imagine, that his mother or sister couldn’t help them out later. He gathered the materials and put them at his desk. “He can do this, too!”

He considered the book he’d been reading with his father. He picked it up and counted the pages. One, two, three… too many! He tossed it aside. There was no finishing any of these book in one night.

There were toys, of course, and games as well. Most of these he’d hoped to play with friends, but it seemed he wouldn’t be seeing them again. He wished he could’ve given some of them away, to deserving parties, but he supposed his replacement would want them too. There was only one thing to do, then. He bent over and fished out his Gameboy. They weren’t allowed to play games before homework was done, but it wasn’t his homework. Not anymore. Climbing up onto the bed, he turned on the device. Here was a task! He’d reached the final dungeon with all his equipment. Only the Emperor of Evil remained.

Sam sat cross-legged, his head bowed, hands together. He concentrated on the boss, remembering a weakness communicated by a friend. An hour, then two, and the deed was done. [Congratulations] the screen informed him. He’d saved the world.

Sam fell back onto his bed, arms spread. The ceiling fan rotated slowly above. He began to feel sad again. He hadn’t done much, but at least he was a hero. He glanced to the desk where he’d stacked all his work.

“He can do it,” he said, and turned away. He wrapped the comforter like a cape ‘round his body. Then, he hesitated. He looked back at his work. The new him would be here tomorrow, but would he have time to do it before class? Sam had saved the world just now, and nobody knew it but him. He’d be gone tomorrow, and the only thing his replacement would know about him was how much work he’d left behind.

Sam lay in silence a few minutes more, then rose to his feet and approached the desk.


“Maddie? Sam? We’re home!”

“Oy,” said Maddie from the kitchen, “Welcome back!” She was chewing on some pretzels, her study nearly done.

In walked the parents, well-dressed but tired. Their father was lugging a box in his arms. “Where’s Sam?” he asked, setting it aside.

“Ohhhh…” Maddie hesitated. With a guilty side-glance, she regarded the clock. “He’s…asleep! Upstairs. I put him to bed.” She hadn’t heard anything downstairs at least.

Climbing the stairs, their mother was initially displeased to see the light on, but her whole mood changed when looked into his room. There, at the desk, the boy was sleeping, his head bowed, hands together. It seemed he’d been working on school work. She made a note to question Maddie after. She lifted him up and put him to bed.

“Happy birthday, Sam.” She kissed him on the cheek. The sleeping boy smiled and the lights went out.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 04:26 on Jan 15, 2023

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Hit me with that yokai spirit.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Yoruichi posted:

Train youkai
The Longing (1140 words)

The town where Akiko lived was bisected, almost perfectly, by an old dried-up riverbed now overgrown with grass. An old red bridge, once majestic, spanned the chasm, joining the two halves with a view of the sunset. To the North slept the old town, where Akiko resided. To the South was the city where she worked, shopped, and ate. The walk to work was simple, almost automatic. The return trip, however, would call her to the sky. She’d stand there on the bridge, overlooking the grass, waiting for the daylight to recede into the night. It was during moments like these, when the bridge was deserted, she would reflect on the end of the Showa Era, when she came into possession of an old train car.

Akiko had been a visually striking youth, though not for the reasons she might’ve preferred. At 172 centimeters, a most unkind growth spurt, she towered over the other girls in her class, and even a number of the boys. Her height might have made her an object of adoration, had she given in to her teachers’ advice that she join the girls basketball team. Instead she was subject to ridicule and rumor, and contented herself with the search for solitude.

It was during such a search she discovered the train.

It, too, had been abandoned, left on some forgotten track running through the forest. A magnificent model, imperial in make, overgrown with plantlife, trapped between the trees. She recalled the old station, a spot for school trips. She’d heard all the cars had been shipped to museums. It seemed they’d missed one, or maybe they didn’t.

“You are no one’s, then? Very well. You are mine. You belong to me, and I am yours.”

So saying, satchel in hand, she approached the back steps. Interwoven in the grating were sharp shoots of grass. She carefully climbed, and entered the back, greeted by columns of faded, wooden seats. Two chairs to a side and twenty rows deep, with a moss-covered carpet straight down the middle. She had wondered if she wouldn’t find an animal or two, or perhaps the skeleton of a slumbering passenger. The windows within looked out on the forest, an infinite maze of green and brown pillars.

“Tickets, miss?”

She spun about. There, where she’d entered, stood a hunched, ancient figure. She stumbled backwards, eyes wide, mouth shut.

“Hmm.” The figure cocked its head. “No tickets?” It was then she realized it was dressed like a conductor. With a dried, bony figure, it pulled at its beard. Its skin was stretched taut, its eye sockets hollow.

“This.” She swallowed. She forced a calm face. “This is my train, sir. I don’t need a ticket to board my own train.”

“Oh, I see. So that’s how it is.”

The conductor nodded, and stepped down the aisle.

Looking to the side, Akiko scrambled for a seat. The conductor passed by her, and turned at the front. Surveying the seats, he seemed satisfied. He pulled out a whistle and raised it to his lips.

“All aboard? Very good.”

He blew into the whistle, but no sound came out. He tucked it away, and stood at attention. Akiko turned her head, her fingers gripping the back of the seat in front of her, but nothing happened. The car sat still. The sounds of the forest crept in from outside, intruding on the silence of the stationary train.

“Where are you off to today, miss?”

“Excuse me?”

“Ah, you must forgive me.” The conductor tipped his hat. “Us old folks like to talk. I assumed you were traveling. I apologize for prying.”

Akiko’s eyes narrowed. Who was this fellow? Despite his appearance, he didn’t seem dangerous. She looked out the window, into the woods. They were still here. They hadn’t moved at all.

“Why would we be traveling anywhere?”

“Well,” the conductor chuckled, “A train isn’t a destination in and of itself. Its purpose is to carry you where you’d like to go. Children may stop and admire now and then, but a train that doesn’t travel is no train at all.”

“Well then… I suppose I’m going nowhere.”

The conductor smiled. “As fine a place as any.”

Akiko surveyed the interior of the space. No passengers appeared. Nothing else had changed. She was sitting in a train car, abandoned in the woods, alone with her strange but professional companion.

“It… is a handsome train, sir. I can understand why the children marvel.”

The conductor puffed out his chest. “No finer train has ever graced these rails. Why the Emperor himself once inspected this compartment. I’ve never been prouder in all my years.”

“You met the Emperor?”

“You meet a lot of people in this business. Everyone’s got somewhere they need to go.”

“I see.”

Again her eyes drifted to the scenery out the window. The forest was still there. She looked beyond it. She saw her school, in need of renovation, desks arranged calmly in neat little squares. She saw her home above the store her father owned. She saw her mother washing dishes by the window. She saw the shore where her grandmother lived, and the cliff-side marker where her grandfather rested.

“So you’re the new owner, eh?” The conductor’s voice intruded on her thoughts. “Glad we finally met. But how did a girl your age come to own this magnificent train?”

Akiko’s attention flickered.

“I found it.”

“I see, I see. Well it’s good to be found.” He removed his cap completely, and bowed. “I’m grateful my employer has discriminating tastes.”

“How long has this train been out here?”

“Oh, some time now.” The conductor’s face fell. “It’s been awhile since anyone needed our services. I fear we’ve been forgotten.”

Akiko lowered her gaze to the back of the seat in front of her. The back of each seat boasted a pattern of bronze-infused lattice. Though green now, it had once been a brilliant shimmering color. Even so, it was beautiful, here at the end. Even forgotten, the care of its creation had been self-evident.

“To be used and forgotten. That is the way of things.” The conductor sighed, then regained his smile. “Thank you, owner, for needing us again, even if only for a moment.”

Akiko’s own smile was modest, tight-lipped, but her eyes betrayed a certain sincerity. She leaned out the window to follow the tracks. She looked back within. The conductor was gone.

The wind began to pick up on the bridge. Autumn had come, and winter would follow. Akiko considered the riverbed below the bridge, as she had the train those many years past. Though the river was gone, here stood a reminder, but only for those who cared to remember.

“You are mine,” she’d repeat to the emptiness between. “You belong to me, and I am yours.”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
In, gimmie a pic.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Slow Days (762 words)

Clover awoke to the sound of rain. Her cat, Hammond, ever the professional, was already dressed. He’d made her some tea.

“Punctuality is a virtue, Miss Clover,” he said. He looked very smart in his vest and apron.

Clover turned away, wincing, her face enveloped by her pillow. Hammond tsk’d. He reached for a small jar of honey, shaped like a summer golden hive in miniature, and added a drop to the cup he’d just poured.

“Opening soon approaches, Miss Clover. Your breakfast awaits. You’ll find it downstairs.”

“Hammy, please. I just want to sleep.”

“Sleep is important, but so are our duties.”

“Nobody ever comes by in the rain.”

“Nobody yet.” Hammond nodded. “And maybe not ever. But suppose someone did. Would you abandon them, out in the rain?”

Clover sighed, and sat up in bed. She loosened the buttons on her crumpled nightshirt.

“Where are we today, then? Still in the town.”

“We moved in the night. We’re in the woods.”

Remembering her tea, she stopped to partake, nursing the cup between her fingers, letting the warmth flow into her hands. Hammond finished laying out her uniform, freshly washed and ironed, before heading for the door.

It was a few minutes before Clover joined him, adjusting her apron as she set down the stairs. Her eyes remained on half-lidded vigil. Her hair was a mess, but she was awake.

“Very asymmetrical, Miss Clover.”

“Thanks, Hammy.” She winked with a toothy little grin. “Thought I’d try sleeping on the other side, you know?”

Satisfied, finally, with the state of her strings, Clover looked out from the storefront window. They were indeed in the middle of the woods, with a single dirt path flowing just past the door.

“Shame,” she said, “I’ll miss the seaside.”

Munching on some toast, she went about her duties, setting up shop like any other day. The cafe picked the venues, without their input. Hammond had the kitchen. The front room was hers. Having tended to the kettles, each set to boil, she dusted the tables, adjusted the chairs. The sound of the rain on the glass kept her languid, a hum on her lips, her own invention. She grabbed the broom and began to sweep. The floorboards creaked softly with every step.

Her chores completed, Clover returned to the counter, where she kept a radio next to the cash register. Taking a minute to find the right station, wordless melodies soon filled the space, joined soon after by the smell of fresh pastries, left overnight to rise in the oven.

Clover breathed in deep and leaned against the cash register, propping up her head with her right hand, drumming on the countertop quietly with her left. Hammond re-entered, carrying a tray. She helped put the croissants out on display.

“Capital work, Miss Clover,” he said, surveying the area, “Truly, your tardiness belies your talents.”

“What can I say?” Clover shrugged. “If it’s worth waiting for, it’s worth waiting for.” Approaching the door, she flipped over the sign: NOW OPEN, in flowing cursive.

Returning to her post, Clover raised her elbows to the countertop and rested her chin on her fingers. The rain continued to fall through the trees, the dense green foliage quivering with the weather. This wasn’t such a bad spot, Clover supposed. The cafe was perfect, unspoiled, and empty. Days like this were okay too.

Time passed slowly, if it passed at all, Even Hammond, eventually, gave up. Leaping up to the counter, he made himself comfortable, curling up into a ball next to the radio. Clover reached for the dial, lowering the volume. Hammond purred. She scratched behind his ears.

“All that fuss for nothing,” she said with a mischievous grin

“It’s not wrong to be ready.”

“But it’s nice, you know? Not to be needed.”

Hidden by the clouds above, and the trees, the day would darken, signaling night. Clover stretched and yawned and ran her fingers through her hair. Hammond had taken a position by the window.

His ears perked up, then his body followed. “Miss Clover,” he said. “I believe someone’s coming.”

Clover’s eyes snapped open. She did her best to make herself presentable, brushing at the crinkles and crumples in her clothes. Hammond raced back to the open countertop, poised and ready to bow his head.

The door swung open, ringing the bell. Cloaked figure entered, dripping wet, and threw back their hood. “Not too late?” They looked to the counter.

“Not at all,” said Clover with a two-finger salute. “Anytime, anywhere, anyone who needs a break.”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Excuse me!”

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

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

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

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

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now go forth and conquer.

The Three Winds
Bad Seafood
Somebody else

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

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

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

rohan posted:

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

MockingQuantum posted:

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

The man called M posted:


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

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Thranguy posted:

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

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Ceighk posted:

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

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

The Wicked ZOGA posted:

gently caress it, I do want to participate in one of these, even though actually I know very little about the genre. I'm in. Does taking a prompt give me any other constraints? If not, I'd like one please.
The small god smiled, like a knife in the dark.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

My Shark Waifuu posted:

I return! In and flash rule please
They crept ever closer, waiting to feed.

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