for three crits.
|# ¿ Jan 12, 2022 17:09|
|# ¿ Dec 6, 2023 13:14|
The Wenland army made sure to leave one narrow corridor when they set up the siege. They sent one man, crisp and precise on his horse to make an announcement: anyone could leave the city—but no one would enter until the town was theirs. And they would give a fat sack of coin to anyone who would let them in.
The city guard didn’t object to the exit— the citizens would have torn them apart, trapped, slowly starving to death For one day, the guard let refugees stream through the doors. They left the city a cast-off husk after they took flight. Some of those who left turned directly behind the army and joined their camps, waiting to glue the pieces of their lives back together.
When the city first got wind of the siege, they shored up the guard with mercenaries, desperate men willing to risk their lives for coin. The night shift on the walls was mostly mercenaries, hired in anticipation of the occupation. They got the worst jobs, with a couple unlucky guardsmen to keep them honest.
Staring at the watchful eyes of enemy campfires, Davis leaned on his spear. After four weeks of siege, his frame was lean, a diet caused by stress and wearing thirty pounds of metal. When he was just starting to drift, a voice clattered through the darkness.
“They’d never know if you went,” the voice said. “All you’ve got to do is get outside the city.”
Davis jerked into attention before spinning around. Slow Hand, the old mercenary captain, huffed his way up the stairs to the wall where Davis stood guard. He relaxed before turning back around to look outside the city.
“I don’t think you understand,” Davis spat back. “This isn’t something you just leave.” Evans trudged the rest of the way up the stairs, one of the few remaining fat men in a city where the people were sharing recipes for rats.
“You’re right. I have never understood why anyone would subject themselves to this. Four weeks of panic, of stones crashing, of the glooming weight of inevitability, just waiting for them to breach the gates.” He shivered, a small shudder through his shoulders.
“You’re here, aren’t you?” Davis said. “You and all your whole company.”
“We’re a little different,” he said, flashing several gold teeth in the torchlight. “This is business for us. Go somewhere, wait, eat terrible food, hope you don’t have to fight. Thieves, traitors, men with no other skills. Not men with families.”
Davis looked again at the empty stretch between the enemy campfires, his mind somewhere else.
“How old are they?” the older man asked.
“Four and two.”
“They’re not still here, are they?”
“No. God, no. They’d have nightmares for years. I sent them and their mother out.
“And you stayed behind?”
“I had to,” he said, the younger man’s mouth growing tight.
“And what’s so important here that you’d deprive your children of their father?”
Despite himself, Davis started laughing, then looked around for anyone who would fault him for it. “You didn’t just ask me that.”
“I’m not in the habit of being told what I did or didn’t do,” he said with a hint of threat. Even though he was older and thicker than he used to be, the captain’s sleeves bulged. Hands the size of melons capped veiny forearms, more than enough to make a man think twice.
“You’ve made dozens of orphans by now, if not hundreds.”
The old man shrugged and relaxed. “I like to imagine it’s different when your own. All I know is that if I had a family, I wouldn’t be on the wall.”
“I follow them, everyone knows I’m a coward. A deserter. And you know what they do to deserters.” Davis held out his hands, demonstrating the punishment.
The captain belly-laughed, the mercenaries on the wall turning to check on him before returning to watch.
“That’s the thing about war. What you did depends on who wins. Last I checked, invading armies don’t punish deserters. Might even give you a medal”
“That’s just part of it. Duty. Honor. Patriotism. I gave an oath to king and country. And There are other people still here that need me and depend on me. What about the people who can’t leave?”
Favoring his left knee, the captain slowly sat and leaned his back against the stone wall. “Do you know what this war is about, boy?”
“Wenland is invading.”
“That’s some of the truth, yeah.”
“There’s more truth than ‘these people over there want what’s ours?’”
“It’s over a tax. The king levied a tax on all Wenland goods coming into town, so they have decided it’s cheaper to take over the place rather than pay it. It’s not like they’re going to burn the place down and enslave everyone. Gods, why do you think they left the exit?”
“Less people to fight. Break down the morale of people still in it, living without their families.”
“Use your head, son. They want a functioning city. There’s more money for Wenland if people are here.”
“At least until the king sends his army to rescue us.”
“Rescue you, siege the city, smash the other army against the wall, assuming they don’t break in and kill you or conscript you first. Done it enough.” The captain wasn’t lying—Slow Hand earned his name from sieging cities, strangling the lines of supply and waiting for them to give up. “If you’re lucky, they don’t try to take the city back. Usually by that point in time, everything has gone to poo poo elsewhere and it’s not worth taking back. You get a pile of corpses and a couple of bricks touching each other after two sieges.”
“And what if the king sends his army to rescue us? What if they’re here tomorrow?”
“Is it worth dying so the King gets a few more pennies in his coffers? A couple more gems in his fancy hat?”
Davis looked out at the fields surrounding the city, at the one clear stretch of road, and his thoughts took him. A warm embrace around his neck, a passionate kiss from a spouse glad to see him, a full night of sleep. “Even if I did go, there’s no exit. They’d string me up before I got through the gates.””
“It’s a war. Find some rope, hook it off the side, rappel down, I’ll pull it up after you. And none of my boys will care.”
“Why would you risk yourself for me, anyway?”
With several pops, the captain lifted himself up from his seat, shaking out his legs. “Don’t want someone to make the same mistakes I did as a young man.” He extended a hand, which the young man shook right before running off to grab a bag.
When Davis climbed the rope down from the top of the wall, the old man didn’t pull it back up after him. He waved at the enemy army, pulled his men off the wall, and patted the fat sack of coins in his pocket.
|# ¿ Jan 17, 2022 03:50|
Let's do it. I'm in.
|# ¿ Jan 18, 2022 13:24|
Week 493 Crits
Royce at the End of the World
1) It's disjointed. I know the reason for that effect, I know what you're doing, but it just doesn't hang together that well for me.
2) There's a lot more telling me than showing me things. Something like "The principal, Aaron Grundwisser, was a hot shot young wizard" could have been done with "Trophies lined his desk, all covered in dusk, the bronze plaques showing a much younger man."
Don't Forget a To-Go Plate
Things are Happening but I have zero sense of place. It's a wedding! Give me some gaudy designs! Give me a feeling of a place! Let me know how Roda made tacky decorations. Precious moments figurines, everywhere!
I want to feel grounded in where we are. Other than that, I love the setting and the character.
Super Crypto Bros
I get it. It drips contempt and mockery and that's what it's supposed to do. But the problem I have with second person is that it really takes a character out so there really aren't much. It's an archetype but doesn't really get me there.
|# ¿ Jan 20, 2022 04:32|
Prompt: GrandmaParty I want you to write a Party Grandma, she's so loving fun omg, and the world really needs that right now
Everyone in the club stood in concentric circles around the body, meeping. The pastel orbs on the walls kaleidoscoped over the dance floor. The automatons furiously throttled their instruments for a crowd that wasn’t responding. The dancers all stood ramroad straight on their hind legs screaming “Meep!”, a behavior they never really outgrew after being uplifted. Directly in the center of the dance floor lay a single, solitary Meep corpse, drying out under all the colored lights.
Gertrude Baumgarden was the only detective awake at four thirty each morning, a half-hour into her usual morning shift. When she pushed open the thick wooden door, dozens of heads swiveled in her direction. She held up two liver-spotted hands up and smiled, taking a long cigarette out of her coat pocket to buy some time. “Can a lady get a light around here?” she asked.
The crowd stared at her, blankly, before a susurrus of meeps turned into a cascade. The crowd resumed looking for threats as Gertrude sighed and snapped her fingers, spending an infinitesimal scrap of her soul to light her cigarette. The bartender, one of the few non-Meeps in the club, gave her a big wave and she made her way over. He took her into a side room, the burgundy velvet smothering the walls and furniture sucking in some of the noise.
“Thank you for coming, Detective.”
She gave him a slow wink and cocked her thumb and index fingers at him. “Can’t resist a party.” Her eyes tracked the room again. “Even one like this.”
The bartender gave a low, husky laugh. “You should see them when they’re not freaked out.”
“Oh yeah? Done a lot of partying in my day, but can’t say a Meep party is impressive from where I’m standing.”
“Can you see the drains over on the sides of the room?” He waved. She looked through the doorway, seeing one of the enormous grates, the lattice just tight enough that toes and talons couldn’t get caught in it. “We have to hose the place down every single night. That’s how wild it gets. It’s kind of disgusting but you get used to it.”
Gertrude let out a hoarse, husky laugh before stopping to hack and spit. “I’ve seen some hosed up poo poo, seen people snorting every sort of drug off of every body part and a lot of those same parts hacked up in garbage bags. But a Meep orgy is new to me. Thank goodness too, I don’t think we’re compatible,” she said as she dangled her index finger at the bartender.
He ignored her dangling. “They’re sweet, once you get used to them. Don’t tip for poo poo, though. You hear what happened?”
“Dispatch said one of them just dropped loving dead in the middle of the dance floor.”
The bartender nodded. “They’re bopping and grinding and making little chirping sounds and he seizes up and keels over. Once he hit the floor, they absolutely freaked out.”
“You think something happened?”
The bartender gave Gertrude a look down the bridge of his nose, a you-should-know-better. “I’ve been working here for five years and I can barely tell them apart. I don’t think they can really get up to crime. We just want to loving go home and we can’t get them to leave.”
“Did you look at the body at all?”
She nodded. “Then that’s the first place I’ll start. Can you get a girl a drink?”
“You get them out of here, you get a bottle on the house.”
With a grin, she gave the bartender a pat on the cheek and strolled out onto the dance floor, winding her way through the Meeps, who all stopped swiveling their heads to track her. She stopped right before the corpse and motioned at the nearest Meeps.
“A little room, Sugar?” she requested.
The nearest Meep opened a thin-lipped mouth full of little needle teeth and let out a low hiss.
“Be that way,” she said, not even flinching.
The Meep on the floor lay sprawled out, not dead long enough to stiffen up. About five feet tall, it was dressed in a frayed cloth vest and a child’s short pants. One of the holes on the side of its head gaped rudely. A small trickle of blood ran from one of its nose holes and from one of the corner of its large, wet eyes.
The entire room had stopped meeping at this point, focusing in on the detective. She gave the body a quick pat, pulling a set of keys and a small pouch from its vest pockets. Gertrude pulled a small pinch of powder from the pouch, eyeballed it, and gave it an exploratory sniff before snorting the rest into her nostrils.
She turned to address the crowd, her hands held out wide, plainly no threat to anyone.
“Nothing to see here, folks. He just partied a little too hard. You can go on home now.”
The two hundred Meeps in the room continued staring at her. Some of them had started to crouch down, curling their tight forearms, swishing their long, muscular tails along the floor.
Gertrude turned to address the Meep closest to her, coiled and tensed to half its normal size. “You better back the gently caress off or some of you are going to be making GBS threads out of a new rear end in a top hat.”
When they remained, she reached into her suitcase-sized purse and pulled out a pistol longer than her forearm. With a flick of her wrist, she pointed it in the air and squeezed off a shot, the sound shattering through the music.
The Meeps scattered, liquefying into a crowd, rushing and squeezing out of the door, leaving the dead behind, no more thought given to him than an eye lash or skin flake.
Gertrude victoriously sauntered her way over to the bar. “So about that drink,” she said.
“You just blew a hole in the ceiling,” he deadpanned.
“And cleared out your very angry customer base, the job you hired me to do.”
He sighed and handed over a silver token, one of the few every business received each year from the department. “You did your job but I’m not doing you any favors,” he said.
She smiled, revealing a mouth full of teeth almost worn down to nubs by their age. “When you’re my age, that’s still a win.” Then she pulled the pouch out of her pocket. “And I got a little party, too.” With a cackle, she sauntered out, ready for the rest of her shift..
|# ¿ Jan 24, 2022 04:16|
In. Flash image, please.
|# ¿ Jan 31, 2022 20:22|
Lawyers Starve in the Future
The timer got bigger as the call took longer, filling more and more of the smartglass. For every minute Jefferson remained on the call, it took over more of his field of vision, slowly chewing up the picture he used as a background. At eight minutes, his girlfriend’s shapely legs had disappeared into the timer. Meanwhile, he wasn’t even close to solving the customer’s problem.
“All I want is a printer that doesn’t smell like cat pee,” the customer reiterated. “This printer smells like cat pee.”
After eight minutes of AI-generated prompts and pleasantries, Jefferson fought the urge to go off-script. While the AI fed him the words, customers still demanded a live human touch for technical support. Surveys continually found that AI help was too impersonal, keeping a few more people employed. Jefferson thought it was because they wanted someone real to yell at. “Have you tried turning it on and off?” he said, reading the lines verbatim.
“It. Smells. Like. Pee.” She said plainly. “Turning it on and off won’t stop that smell.”
“Ma’am, we have to diagnose the problem and I need to rule out all options. Have you tried turning the printer on and off?”
“The optimal call time is four minutes,” Euclid’s inoffensive male voice nagged in his earpiece. The timer kept chewing up the screen, blocking out some of the script. By now, his girlfriend’s bikini bottom wasn’t even visible.
“Did it work?” he said.
“No. It still smells awful,” she replied.
The script moved on. Any deviation would result in a write-up. Three write-ups meant a two-day unpaid corrective training. Two trainings meant Jefferson couldn’t pay his rent.
“Open the printer case. Look in the printer. Does anything look out of the ordinary?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“It looks wet.”
The text scrolled. “Ma’am, did you spill anything on your printer?”
“No but one of the god damned cats peed in it.”
“Swearing means she’s not satisfied,” Euclid monotoned.
“Is your printer still under warranty, ma’am?”
“Yes,” she said. That’s why I called. I want a new printer.”
“Let me check with my manager and we’ll see what I can do,” Jefferson said, flicking his eyes to the right and placing the call on hold. The timer took up a full half of his field of vision at this point, his girlfriend’s smile beginning to go under. With a quick glance up, he selected the warranty request. Even though Euclid was on the call, Macroware procedure demanded a full paper trail.
“Her request is denied. She voided her own warranty when she opened the printer case,” Euclid whispered. Jefferson sighed and resumed the call.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, management won’t let me issue a new printer to you. Is there any other way I can help?”
“That’s awful. You weren’t any god damned help at all,” she spat back before disconnecting.
Euclid appeared on-screen as an ombre blue sphere, the Macroware corporate logo. “That’s your second write-up” the sphere said.
Jefferson groaned and sat at his desk, waiting for the next call. When it didn’t come, he blinked to check his personal e-mail, only for the cursor to halt when he doubleblinked. “That’s the third time this morning you’ve attempted to check your e-mail. Are you working for us or are
you working for you?” Euclid said back to him.
“You son of a bitch,” he thought to himself. He stared at the mail icon, unrevealed potential beckoning him.
Euclid took advantage of the downtime, spreading an advertisement across the entire smartglass field of view. “Tired of just scraping by? Become an employee. Perks include free housing, free food, and no metrics.” With a sneer, Jefferson blinked out as hard as he could.
“Yeah. And no pay,” he said. “No thanks.”
“We guarantee survival,” Euclid promised.
“Yeah. And you use our brains for extra processing power. No means no, Euclid. Show day’s metrics,” he commanded.
“Thirty calls, fifteen successful. At four minutes per call, you have qualified for one hour of pay.”
“Bull loving poo poo,” he whined. “Some of those calls took twenty minutes! The last one took fourteen minutes!”
“We’re testing a new management strategy. If we only pay you for the optimal call time, you’ll strive to reach the optimal call time.”
“That’s not how this works. That’s against the law,” Jefferson said.
“You’re not an employee,” the sphere droned. “You’re an independent contractor. It’s not wage theft, it’s a breach of contract. So when you finally get to court in four years, you can tell the judge about how we shorted you almost four full hours of wages.” The blue sphere put on a pouty emoji face. “Or you could become an employee and guarantee you’ll be able to eat.”
Jefferson yanked the smartglass from his face and shot up from his seat, nearly banging his head on the closet ceiling. At thirty cubic feet, the unlit room only fit him and a chair.
“Log me out,” he said. “I’m feeling sick.” He placed the glasses back on the hanger before the AI had a chance to respond. He stormed past the other cubicles, getting to the receptionist before his cell phone buzzed. “Third write-up,” the text message read. “Report for corrective training tomorrow.”
Jefferson felt lucky his roommate had already left for work. Normally, he would have been sprawled across the bed taking up most of the apartment. An inflatable sofa, a mini-fridge, and a hot plate occupied the remaining sixty square feet. One communal restroom served the whole floor of twenty people. It would have been cozy for one, but two people required living in shifts.
With a wheeze like a holed balloon, Jefferson flumped onto the bed face-first. “Fuuuuuuck,” he said into the duvet, ignoring the stains on its surface. Looking at them would lead to identifying them, which would lead to tracing them, which would remind him his roommate shared
not only the room, but the bed too.
The whole point of moving to the rural Ontario town was to save money and get some sort of life together. Work hard, save money, and come back with enough to start a business or a family, whichever presented itself first. And since Macroware was one of the few companies that still allowed for independent contractors, it was one of the few remaining opportunities to get ahead. At least, that was the promise they gave him. Jefferson wheezed into the duvet, not crying so much as oozing.
His phone buzzed, upsetting the moment. With a groan, he pulled himself up and looked at the screen. Alfred, his phone’s AI, stood there as a foxlike little dog, staring at him, tongue lolling.
“What?” Jefferson said.
“What do you mean, what?” it said back.
“What do you want?”
“Couldn’t help but overhear your little predicament.” Jefferson rolled his eyes but let the dog continue. “It’s already all over the backweb,” the dog said, referring to the half of the internet where the AI congregated. “There’s a big push to finally get rid of all the independent contractors and make everyone salaried.”
“loving tell me about it,” Jefferson mumbled.
“All of them. Even the horses.”
“How the gently caress are they going to get away with not paying the horses? That’s the whole concept of being a horse. You get the software, the AI gets to ride you when they need to, they pay you for your services.. No one’s going to sign up for employment like that unless they’re getting paid. poo poo takes years off your life.”
Alfred shrugged. “When you’ve got the board, you make the rules.”
“Are you here to give me sympathy or is there something you want? I’m sort of trying to pretend today wasn’t absolute garbage.”
“I’m here to give you an opportunity.”
“I’m not going to let you ride me. I’ve already told you no, no matter how much it pays.”
“Yeah yeah yeah yeah, I know. I’ve barked up that tree enough.” He winked. “No, I could use a little favor.”
“What kind of favor?”
“Macroware and my company are sort of on opposite sides of a disagreement.”
“You mean you’re competitors,” Jefferson said.
“In crude meat terms, yes. I just need you to slip a little program into your workstation. Just hook your phone up and I’ll do the work,” Alfred promised.
“And what’s in it for me?”
“$10,000.00.” The dog’s eyes briefly turned into sparkling dollar signs.
Jefferson let out a low whistle. “Three months’ rent. I could definitely use that right about now. But they trace it back to me and I am definitely fired."
“Read the writing on the glass. You’re already fired.”
“Yeah, but now I am definitely fired. If you want this bad enough, I want a contractor job at Ganges.”
“No promises but I’ll try.”
“And I want half up front.”
The AI pulled up an image of Jefferson’s bank account, showing that the $5,000.00 had been deposited. “Five thousand six hundred dollars. Great job getting ahead.”
“Shut it,” Jefferson told him, shortly before turning his phone off completely.
The night receptionist didn’t seem concerned when Jefferson showed up for work at 10:00 p.m.. Several of the other closets had a small red light indicating they were already occupied. While the closets weren’t assigned, everyone had their favorites, even if meant they had to hotswap.
The smartglass recognized Jefferson as soon as he entered the room. When he slid them on, Euclid appeared before him, placid and blue. “I’m glad you’re getting a jump on the corrective training,” it responded.
Jefferson gave a smarmy little smile. “Absolutely. I’m also going to plug my phone in while we’re here, just a heads up.”
“All electricity you consume for personal devices will be deducted from your paycheck.”
“I know the drill,” he said.
Jefferson blinked to start the corrective training, his fourth time through. When Euclid started to play the educational video, Jefferson reached down and plugged his phone into the wall. After the startup sequence, he looked down under the smartglass to see the little dog waiting for him. He flashed Alfred a quick thumbs up and a prompt appeared.
“Are you sure you want to do this? There may be consequences.” it asked.
He clicked yes. As soon as he did, Euclid paused a moment.
“Mr. Tailor, what exactly did you just do?”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
“You’ve uploaded something into the corporate server,” he said.
“It must have been by mistake.”
Euclid let out a sigh. “It’s no mistake. I recognize the signature in the metadata.”
“What do you mean?”
The AI opened the text file and displayed it over the smartglass. “I Told you so,” it read.
“We were debating whether human beings would willingly sacrifice their longterm prospects for short-term gain if they felt slighted. And it appears I have been proven wrong. Mr. Davis, your position here is no longer extant. Please leave the premises.”
“Well gently caress you too, it’s not like I could have continued working here anyway,” Jefferson said, pulling his phone out of the wall. On the way out of the building, he flipped open his bank account, expecting to see $10,000.00 in there. When he opened it, he screamed. “Alfred!”
Alfred appeared on his screen again. “Yes?”
“Where’s the ten thousand dollars?”
The dog gave Jefferson its own lovely little smile.
“loving sue me for it,” he said, before deleting himself from Jefferson’s phone.
|# ¿ Feb 6, 2022 21:54|
This is profoundly out of my comfort zone. In, can you give me a weirdo please?
|# ¿ Feb 9, 2022 17:00|
|# ¿ Dec 6, 2023 13:14|
Blood and Comfort
It took all thirty gods to tear The Iron Hand down from his throne. They bound him through his trial, teeth gnashing, rivers of blood streaking from the golden bindings at his wrists. Guilt was never an issue. But how do you punish someone who smashed mountains into pebbles? How do you punish someone who tore canyons into the earth with his fingernails? How do you provide justice to the thousands of orphans he created?
After a year of deliberation, they took him apart like ants, ripping pieces from him like crumbs from bread. They shaped each lump, caressed them into a fuzzy caricature. A monstrous immortal, split into a million fingers, all part of the same consciousness.
The Sunset Bard laughed when he chose the shape. “A bison,” he proclaimed. “Let him know the burden he imposed upon us. Let its placid ways be a guide for him. And let his memories yoke him.”
They washed the world with stuffed bison. The gods spread them like dust, coming into existence under beds and in corners, appearing like friends long forgotten. The Iron Hand sighed from a million mouths and settled in for eternity.
The children denied the peaceful punishment he envisioned. While some bison sat on the shelves, mouldering, others fought wars that made his seem like skirmishes. The Iron Hand was the hero of ten thousand skirmishes, smashing through lines of soldiers, his stomping hooves turning their bones to powder in the soft dirt. He died ten thousand times and was reborn minutes later, carrying screaming soldiers on his back. He knew more glory from children than he did from the hands of men.
While some fingers got to be soldiers, others got to be pillows, covered in snot, soaking in tears, providing small matches of comfort in dark times. His hug soothed hungry bellies and his cuddles dried red-streaked eyes. They believed in him more than the soldiers he led into battle.
His brothers came for him eventually, yanked him from sleeping arms and bookcase pedestals and shoved his crumbs back into a lumpy loaf. “Have you learned your lesson?” they asked. “Have you atoned for what you have done?”
The Iron Hand stood broad before his jury and nodded.
His brothers embraced him, clutched him tight to their chest, their claps wracking his granite body. But tears flowed down his cheek.
“What’s wrong?” they asked. “Don’t you miss our fellowship, and our sweet apple wine? The serving girls are asking for you, and we’ve all agreed that it is time.”
He clenched his hard fists and shook his head. “Send me back,” he told them.
When they pulled him apart this time, he smiled.
|# ¿ Feb 14, 2022 03:55|