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Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

I would like to get in thank you


Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


SurreptitiousMuffin posted:


Tender Teeth
1200 words

Without thought or effort, a ripe apricot was bought, bitten once, and discarded by some laughing presence in the city's sunny upper reaches.

A few days later, the usual hunger scratched at the backs of Lagimer's ribs and steered him to the garbage midden, shaded under the wooden planks of the market platform. There he weaved between the stilts, plucking at morsels with bony fingers, until he happened upon the apricot and raised it to his cloudy eye. The fruit's browning wound looked soft, and the flesh still glistened sweetly, but a dark stone lurked hard behind them.

Lagimer hesitated, fearing the wrongly-placed bite that could shoot pain back into his skull, smear his thoughts, loose his bowels, and wreck his day. Instead, he tore chunks of the apricot away from the stone and sucked at their juice, careful to mash them in his hands and swallow them whole, lest shreds of skin get lodged between his teeth.

He shoved the clean stone deep in his sack and continued on, covering it with bones, rinds, and any plump insect larvae he was lucky enough to find. Sticking to the muck and shadows beneath the boards, Lagimer made his way back across the city to his place. He snarled at the rat families who crossed his path, and swung his sack to clear them, but he made no effort to catch them as he did in his younger days. It must have been ten years on already from the night he fumbled his ratting club in the dockside sewer tunnel, and was lucky to make it back with two dozen bites up his legs and a wicked fever from the pestilence that foamed from their mouths. Painful, yes, and terrifying, but those wounds faded with time and liquor. Not so, in the case of Lagimer's worst affliction: his own tender teeth, which each year grew smaller, softer, and - when he chanced upon a clear enough reflecting pool to see - streaked more darkly with rot.

Pulling aside a moldy cloth, Lagimer slipped into the burrow he'd made for himself in the dank crawlspace under the washerwomen's lodge. The women knew of his place there and mostly ignored him, especially as he kept quiet and scarce during business hours. Their gossip and footfalls rumbled over his head as he hauled up his cookpot and listened for the long SHHHHK sound of the apprentices sweeping grey water toward the drains. Whatever dripped through the cracks in the floorboards he endeavored to catch, to boil up his winnings from the midden in a stew. But that night he lost his balance, had to throw out a hand to steady himself, and the cookpot fell against a stone with a dull CLANG. The voices upstairs quieted for a moment, and then with gruff instruction from someone, resumed their chatter.

Lagimer eased himself down, righted the pot (which still had enough water caught for stewing), and set about building a small fire. All the while he concentrated on his body, searching a lifetime of familiarity for some new or worsening ailment. His calloused hands, his pock-marked legs, his crooked back: all unchanged from their prior wretched state. It wasn't his guts giving him trouble, either - it would take more than old fruit to tear them up. In truth, Lagimer already knew what had caused his arms to fail, and his knee to bend, loathe as he was to admit it. Blood pounded in his ears, like the washerwomen stopped their work to dance, only louder, and emanating from a dull, throbbing, new ache in his jaw.

Fear gripped him as he tentatively prodded at his gums with his tongue. Inflamed, certainly, but how much more than usual? He was distracted as he upturned his sack over the boiling water, and when he lowered it, he saw across the burrow something that made him bite down, piercing the soft flesh of his tongue. Barely in the firelight, on a white iron chair, sat a woman in a white cloak, with a shining silver platter in her lap.

Lagimer doubled over from the pain, eyes screwed shut. After a moment, he spat a wad of blood and wiped the involuntary wet from his eyes. He was accustomed to hallucinations. Such was the life of a hermit. But when he looked up, the woman was still there. Every greasy hair on his body must have stood straight out.

She leaned forward, and on her platter he saw a roast goose, crisp and steaming, with bacon and carrots besides. On instinct he reached for it, but stopped himself halfway. He knew it couldn't be real… but it smelled like perfection. The woman smiled, and he saw that she had no teeth at all. Just a black space where teeth should be.

"Damned filth-witch," he growled, and reached for his cookpot to splash her, but it burned his hands. The woman leaned towards the fire and laughed, and Lagimer could see that she did have teeth after all - long, jet black, and wickedly shining.

The teeth spread apart and he fell inside, suddenly a morsel in her mouth. He grasped uselessly around until her mighty tongue jostled him into her cheek and held him fast. She chewed on him, breaking every bone in his body. She didn't stop. He was twisted, crushed, and shredded. She ground him into paste. He screamed until his jaw broke away, and lost consciousness.

When he awoke, he was on a table, in a room lit by oil lamps that made him squint. The pain was gone, yet he feared it was but a deeper stage of nightmare.

"He's awake," said Magda, a burly washerwoman known to Lagimer, standing from a chair against the wall. She crossed her arms as she watched him, badly hiding concern with impatience. Lagimer heard someone lay down a newspaper and walk around the table, clean boots clicking sharply on clean floorboards. It was a man Lagimer had seen around the labor quarter, from below. Always dabbing his brow with a handkerchief, always in a hurry.

"Yes, Lagimer, is it? No – don't move," said the physician. "You've been sedated. Give it some time."

"Why…" But the moment the croak left Lagimer's throat, he began to understand. The acoustics were off. He could feel neither his teeth nor his tongue, but the latter searched furiously for the former. Shaking hard, he raised a hand to his face, and his fingertips occupied places on his gums that should've been impossible.

"It was toothrot. Always ends badly. Screaming madness, very typical. You should thank your kind neighbor there. And… ah – I typically throw them in the garbage, but… Well, they do belong to you." The physician took a small bowl from a side table and tilted it towards Lagimer, who stared desperately, eyes wide. Inside it was the pile of his teeth, misshapen and mottled black and red with a bit of blood. They were thin, and their roots were long - well long enough to justify their hold on him. But now all their awful power was drained away, like a bad taste spat into mud. Just bones now. Nevertheless, he nodded.

"I need them."

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

I am in

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Duel at Goblinopolis
1493 words

Grannin's foot planted square in the middle of Futhark's back and pushed, launching him through the glowing portal. Futhark landed ungracefully, with a mouthful of sand. "Pfah! What kind of wizard's trick--"

"Never befoul my shop again! Thief!" Came Grannin's reply.

"Uncharitable, Grannin. Let's discuss this," started Futhark, as he pushed himself up, but the portal was already stitching itself closed.

"Charity! Humph! I run an upstanding shop! You deserve this every bit of this–" The man couldn't help but get his shots in, even as the portal fizzled shut. Futhark stood, dusting off his kilt and cape, wondering where in the hell Grannin had sent him, and why.

It was a circular arena - not the smallest Futhark had ever fought in, but not too small for his usual tricks. The walls at floor level were made of thick leather, stretched and lashed tight between massive bones. Whale bones, thick and tall as redwood trees, curved upward to a hole that let in a shaft of dusty light. The dome was patched across with ragged hides, behind which swarmed a hundred little creatures that snickered and hooted in anticipation.

"Goblinopolis?" Futhark muttered to himself. "Who do I know in Goblinopolis?" He scarcely had time to think before another magic portal ripped through the air at the other end of the arena.

"You there," Futhark started as he strode towards the portal. "Wizard, or whoever you are. I've been brought here against my will, a clear violation of King Berry's law. I demand–"

"No King Berry in Goblinopolis," came a low rumble from within the dark portal. "No law either."

A massive, spiked-iron shoulder came through the portal first. Futhark stopped in his tracks. The shoulder was followed by a broad armored chest, topped by a menacing horned helmet with an ogrish faceplate. An iron boot slammed onto the sand, blasting out a low cloud. When the portal fizzled out, a blackguard knight stood up to his full height, several heads taller than Futhark, looking like a malevolent dark statue covered in tiny iron spikes. Whoever was in there hefted a long club, fitted with a mace head covered in more iron spikes, and twisted it between his gauntlets.

Futhark's hands went to his kilt, his bandolier, his daggers, and his trickery pouches to make sure they were all in order. And ready they were. He tried to stand up to his own full, mediocre height, and called across to the knight. "You're quite intimidating. Excellent horns. So… why am I here?"

With great clanking and scraping of plates, the knight pointed at the smaller man. "Futhark Many-Tricks. The swathe of misery you cut across this world is at an end. A coalition of your yet-living victims has decided this for you."

"Wait," Futhark cut in. "Is that, Mallory? Mallory Moorhew?"

The knight ignored the question and began walking towards him. The booming steps drowned out the chittering goblin audience. "You may stay still and let me crush you, if you wish to die with any honor at all."

Three colorful powder sachets - Futhark's opening salvo in most fights - exploded across the knight's chest, but they didn't slow his momentum. He raised his morningstar and swung it down, but Futhark danced away easily.

"Wait. Mallory Moorhew might have died," Futhark said, as he whipped a bolo at the knight's ankles. His aim was true, but it was barely long enough to wrap around one ankle, much less tangle him up. The knight closed to squishing range, but Futhark was agile enough to dodge around his swings, while keeping close enough to examine the armor for weaknesses.

"Liu Bei the Cueless?" Dodge.

"Never heard of him," growled the knight. Swing.

"Oh, right - I killed him." Duck.

"Another sin for which I shall extract justice." Swing.

"Are you sure you're not Mallory Moorhew? I swear, you have the exact sort of self-serious–"

Futhark realized too late that the knight clocked his juke and twisted at the hip, driving the butt of the morningstar into his chest. Futhark grunted and turned the momentum into a series of backflips to put some distance between them. He landed in a crouch, hands deep in his pockets, sorting for a trick to give him an edge.

The knight held his stance, evidently tiring, or perhaps just reevaluating his strategy. "Come over here, Many-Tricks. Draw your daggers and face me. I'll give you your first taste of honor. Don't you wish to die with honor on your lips?" Futhark's fingers moved across the twin elfsteel daggers at his waist... Not yet. He hadn't found a weakness yet.

"Besides," laughed the knight. "It would be faster, and cheaper."

"Goblins charging by the hour, are they?" Finally, Futhark's hands were full of tricks. He had a plan. "Sorry, chum. If I'm to go out with a price on my head, I might as well try to hit a record high, eh?" He began to walk back towards the knight, shoulders slack - ready to evade. But the knight looked distracted, fiddling with something at his wrist. There was an audible crunch of breaking crystal, and the unmistakable sound of liquid, trickling down through the armor.

Futhark paused. "Did you just…?"

The knight groaned, and the seams of his leg plates glowed with a magical purple-blue light. Futhark barely had time to curse when he realized the knight was running at him, impossibly fast!

On instinct, Futhark hurled the vials in his left hand - and half his plan along with them. The spider broodsac and jug of easyhoar soared over the knight's shoulder and shattered on the sand. The acid vial impacted against his breastplate and sizzled harmlessly. Futhark managed to spin around the outside of the morningstar and past the knight's arm, but the armor's spikes shredded his back in the process. It stung like mad… but it was survivable. New plan.

Futhark scrambled to the ice stalagmite that grew out of the spot where the easyhoar had splattered, and snapped a pair of enchanted harpy feathers to fly to the top of it.

"Mingus the Dingus fell in a volcano. Clobbering John is still locked in an iron maiden under Flintcrown Castle, as far as I know, and Magnifico hosed off to the savage continent, never to return. I don't even know any other wizards!"

The knight pivoted fast, still juiced in the legs by his crystal elixir. "You're forgetting one. A big one," he barked. Predictably, he put his shoulder down and charged straight into the stalagmite. Just before the ice spire shattered, Futhark flipped down from the peak and landed on the knight's back.

The iron spikes dug into his palms, knees and toes, but no time to worry about that. As fast as he could, Futhark emptied handful after handful of nefarious tricks into the ogrish faceplate. Years worth of precious acquisitions, gone, to bring down a foe without a name. Stinking gas bags, bruising spirits, rust flies, foaming thickener, Furulian firecrackers, Mereztic moonburners, expanding caltrops -- everything. Even the one-of-a-kind Snuff Box of Santamilleu went past the ogre's eyeholes. All while the knight sprinted around the arena, thrashing blindly to grab Futhark off his back. His cape was ripped away, and most of his pouches, until finally Futhark was nearly naked, yet barely hanging on.

"Ohh," said Futhark. "A big wizard. Fat Zackary! Is it Fat Zackary you're working for?"

"Get off me! Off me!!" The knight was like a blood-mad bull, thrashing uncontrollably against the agonies trapped under his armor. Probably didn't even hear the guess. He jabbed at the crystals embedded in his wrists, cracking as many of them as he could.

"Bad idea," hollered Futhark. "You're gonna regr--" And then a wave of blue-purple engry blasted out of the knight's back, sending Futhark flying into the wall at the other end of the arena. He landed in the dirt, bleeding profusely. The last thing he saw before everything went dark was the knight, engulfed in magic flames, ripping the armor off piece by piece.

Hours later, when he'd mostly scabbed over and the goblin horde had ceased their screeching, Futhark trudged to the scarred, burnt body laying still in the center of the iron wreckage. Only one gauntlet, and the hideous ogre helmet remained in place. Futhark gripped one of its horns and, wincing, slid it off to reveal...

"Mallory bloody Moorhew," Futhark sighed. "If you'd only admitted it... I really think we could've worked it out. I owed you one, after all, you stubborn bastard. Ah, well. Another copper in the jar for 'never trust a wizard.' Oi! Goblins! Where's the exit?"

A cry came back that sounded like, 'Beat it!' and a slab of hide opened up to the cool night air. Gathering up as many pouches as would still hold tricks, and re-tying his feathered cape, Futhark Many-Tricks limped off once again, to fill his pockets with things that didn't belong to him.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

im in

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

The Sewer-Beast
1498 words

I didn't return to work immediately after the accident. The sound and fury of the explosion rattled my head days later, and the image of Flatback's face before he disappeared still haunted me. Boss Astor blamed me for the loss of large amounts of industrial chemicals into the sewers, as well. Being a boy of twelve and not in school, I spent many days that summer walking the dockside, all the way down to the stinking mire where the sewer let out to sea. I would poke through the filth there, not entirely believing, but hoping, that I might find something of Flatback's to take to his family.

Flatback had been a funny boy, an expert gambler, a swindler in the making. When I found nothing of him on the shore, I imagined him hiding just inside the sewer, behind a tangle of wire, waiting to surprise me. So, one day when the tide was out and the sand before the sewer tunnel was hard, I ventured into it with a lantern.

In my curiosity, I wandered far too deep, and there I felt a frightening growl reverberate around me. I scrambled for the safety of daylight, but turning a corner, I saw a wide reptile nearly filling the tunnel it sat in. What I thought was daylight was the glow from its eyes, burning bright orange, the exact same color as the phosphorescent paint used at the manufactory. Its hide had a flowing metallic sheen, like mercury.

I couldn't keep my footing in the sewer muck, but neither could I move from fear until this beast lurched toward me, its middle bulk shifting side-to-side and throwing sparks where it scraped the wall. I ran, and perhaps with the spirit of Flatback guiding me, escaped with my life.

I told nobody of what I'd seen. My zeal for exploration was gone. It wasn't long before I returned to the only thing that made sense: Astor-Jackson Manufactory. The other boys made a raucous welcome for me, though it didn't last long with Boss Jackson on the catwalk. "That's enough," he snarled.

I had had a growth spurt in the intervening months, so I was put to work packaging and loading the distribution trucks. Several boys I had known before were there with me: Irving, Neils, Lenny, Owen, and Pieter. I nearly forgot my encounter with the creature - until it returned.

We were loading a truck when I felt a rumble come up through the floor, through my very bones. I froze, unable to take my eyes from the patched-over spot where Flatback had disappeared.

"Did you hear that?" I asked nobody in particular.

"It's excavations for the new train line, isn't it? I'm surprised they're back at it," said Pieter. "Papers said dynamiter crews keep disappearing. Tales of a beast." A wink and a grin. The boys all laughed. My blood went cold. The rumble returned, accompanied by a pounding that shook the building. Barrels of chemicals rattled in their stacks. Every boy in the building stopped his work, waiting warily. Another pound from below broke the silence, and a hole opened under Pieter. In an instant, he was half-gone, clinging to the bricks.

"Help me," he croaked. The boys ran around to take his hands, but they were leery of getting too close. I was frozen, watching a fiery orange glow pour up out of the hole.

"What the devil's going on down there? Mind the shipment!" Boss Jackson shouted, leaning over the rail of the catwalk.
Pieter gasped, and we heard the wet crunch and rip of flesh. All the expressions of pain and death that we'd long since come to recognize played out on Pieter's face. He sunk out of sight. Irving sobbed. Lenny prayed.

The building shuddered. The glow from the hole intensified, and two massive, scaly hands emerged. I fell on my behind, splashed in Pieter's blood, and finally came to my senses. We all scrambled back under the catwalk as the beast tore through the brick floor until it found purchase.

With great effort, the beast pulled itself up. It had evolved since I met it in the sewer. The swirling metallic coloration on its scales was unchanged, but it stood on its rear legs, like a menacing bear, with its back severely hunched. Its long snout bobbed about, and rows of teeth numbering in the hundreds curved upward like the grin of the demented.

Boss Astor, ignoring Jackson's twitchy pleading, pulled a pistol from his waistcoat and fired five shots at the beast before clicking dry. Each shot bounced off without even a scuff. The beast twisted around and smashed at the catwalk with its heavy tail, destroying the stairs. We boys just barely made it up them - except Lenny, who was thrown through a stack of boxes and landed somewhere, unmoving under debris. Boss Astor dropped his gun, stammering, and let Jackson drag him out the window, onto the roof of the next building.

The beast sniffed its way towards the piled-high chemical barrels. I was halfway to the window when I saw something that made my heart nearly stop. Another boy, one so green I hadn't yet learned his name, cowered behind the barrels. He winced and cried as the beast slashed into a barrel and gulped at the paint that poured forth.

"There's another lad still down there. We have to help him," I said. The boys didn't take any convincing. There was a certain spirit amongst the boys who had done what we had, seen what we had. Knowing we left a boy behind would haunt us longer than any wound.

Irving shouted for help, but the Bosses were long gone. Neils told us the boy was his second cousin, Karl. We watched as the beast's wicked claws slashed ever closer to his hiding spot. It was Owen that came up with a plan.

Being the longest, skinniest boy, Owen went first. Strong-handed Neils held Owen's ankles and lowered him over the edge of the catwalk. Irving and I, of no particular physical gifts, held Owen by the belt, lowering him over the edge as far as we could. The beast was losing its composure, frenzied by the industrial chemicals. Sharp chunks of ruined barrels littered the floor, and fumes burned our eyes.

"Karl," hissed Owen, waving his arms. The boy, who couldn't have been older than 8, was watching us, but he refused to move. "Now!!" Owned urged.

Finally, Karl sprang from his hiding spot. He moved fast, stepping through the debris. The beast paid no attention, but ripped off the top of the barrel. It flew across the room and ricocheted off of Karl's arm. He went down and didn't move, as the beast tipped its head back and poured thick mercury into its maw.
"Get up, Karl! Get up now!" Neils raised his voice. I feared drawing the attention of the beast, but we were out of time. I shouted too, and the other boys joined in. Karl stirred, climbing slowly to his feet. The beast dropped the empty barrel, and one massive black eye swiveled toward us. With a deafening bellow, it hauled its bulk around to face us, whipping its tail into the wall. The building shook like nothing before, and a bolt holding up the catwalk burst. We dropped by a foot, but the catwalk held. The railing groaned as Irving and I braced against it to keep our grip on Neils.

"Take my hand," screamed Owen. Karl's mercury-slick hands struggled to grasp Owen's.

"Lower!" Owen shouted over his shoulder. We had but a scant few more inches to give. All the while, the beast dragged its distended belly across the factory floor, snarling and snapping its jaws. A few inches was enough - Owen wrapped his fingers around Karl's blackened wrist. "Pull!"

We pulled. It was agony. Neils wailed, stretched taut. Closing in, the beast extended its neck and opened its jaws wide - it could engulf Karl and Owen both, in one bite.

But it snapped on air. We bundled Karl across the catwalk, and out the window onto the roofs. The sun was faint behind the usual overcast sky, and a light drizzle fell through the smog. Out there, it was an unremarkable day. Inside our hearts, we knew we had done the impossible - and we had done it together.

The bellowing and thrashing of the beast echoed out from the factory, along with gouts of dust. Eventually, it went quiet. It was seen around the docks a few times, reportedly even larger and more deadly than it had been that day. But after a while, it disappeared altogether. Nevertheless, I had the feeling it wasn't gone - it was simply out to sea, feeding, growing. Waiting for its day to return, and crush us without remorse.

The other boys felt it too. So we resolved to get together, and get ready. When that day came, we would have to save ourselves.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Week 419 Redemption

Fruit of the Gods
1965 words

We were both there to buy a puppy.

"Hello, Professor Perkins!" I said, too loud, happy to see him.

"Ah, hello, Ms. Albert," he replied, clearly flustered.

"A new friend for Pepperoni?" I pointed to the little curly-haired brown puppy trying to wriggle out of his arms.

"Uh, no, actually. Pepperoni, er, passed away." He winced, as though he regretted saying it. I winced too. Pepperoni and I had bonded, briefly.

"How horrible. He seemed healthy the other night." I was on the verge of tears.

"Yes, well," he said, looking more impatient than sad as he juggled the rambunctious puppy arm-to-arm. "I don't like to dwell on these things for long."

"That's a nice way of looking at it," I said with a sniffling laugh. "So, what's this one's name?"

"Doesn't have one. Perhaps… Woodchip. But no, I shouldn't– I'm sorry, please excuse me, I must be going," he said, pushing past me with the puppy tucked firmly under one arm.

"Oh, alright. Thanks again for dinner," I called after him. The bell above the door jangled and he was gone. I touched my lip, remembering through a strange haze, the flavors of the previous Saturday night, when I had gone to dinner at his house. "It was very interesting."

Professor Perkins whirled his front door open and welcomed me inside with all the warmth of a summer sunbeam on a field of wildflowers. The butterflies in my stomach responded in kind. I had no real reason to feel that way, as I'd spent countless hours with Professor Perkins in his cramped office on campus, but it was the first time I'd been invited to the home of someone I considered a mentor and a genius, or personally met the elderly dachshund that stayed close to his heel.

"Thank you, Professor," I said as I knelt to scritch the dog's head. "And who is your dashing TA?"

"Call me Evan, here, please," he said, hanging my coat. I wasn't sure if I would. "And that is Pepperoni."

His home was what you'd expect from a multi-disciplinary professor - books and papers everywhere, but also art, photos, artifacts, and plants. Dozens of plants, several of them with dedicated grow light setups, turning the whole house into a steamy jungle. Yet underneath it all, there was something very intentional about its design, like the dark wood and midcentury configurations were built just so, to frame the chaos that would by now fall all over it. Professor Perkins fit right in - the beating heart of the house in his red sweater vest, little round glasses, and flood of curly hair that ringed his bald head.

"What a lovely home," I said, halting and unable to force his first name out. If he caught my hesitation, he ignored it.

"Ah," he smiled, handing me a tumbler of mezcal. "All plaudits to my wife, may she rest. She knew me like no other, and this house was her final gift." I drank to her memory, held the smoky liquid in my mouth as it stung and coated my tongue, swallowed, and exhaled, feeling like a fire-breathing dragon not immune to its own charms.

We discussed his wife's life for some time, and avoided her death. The conversation then drifted to other things. My own failed relationships, his younger days, his great success, my modest ambitions. After a while, a kitchen timer rang, and Professor Perkins sprang up like a jerked marionette. He moved faster than I thought him capable. I hadn't even realized he was cooking. "Timing is everything," he shouted back at me.

In a whirlwind of plates and cutlery, we sat down at the table, both of us surrounded by steaming dishes. I silently, inwardly groveled at my own feet to thank myself for coming hungry. "It smells wonderful," I breathed.

"Nearly everything is from my own garden. Apologies, but there's no meat. I'm getting to the point where I respect the plants too much to eat them, even. Then I'll really be in trouble." He didn't look sheepish at all. He was a master conductor calling his orchestra and audience to attention with a few taps of his wand.

"First course," he said, loading up my plate. "Charred green beans, coated in melted butter and garlic, with red pepper and almonds." As I brought the fork to my mouth, a bead of butter fat slalomed between the wrinkled, blackened skin of the bean, leaving behind a delicious trail. The almond was sliced so thin as to be translucent. Heavenly.

"Next, is roasted delicata squash with a maple-gochujang glaze, fried leaves of sage, and pickled red onions to offset the sweetness." He arranged the browned orange cubes in a tower on my plate, sage nestled around it like kindling, and strands of pickled onion laid on top, like a precious offering on an altar. Though hearty, it was the perfect portion.

"Finally," he said, as I waited, fully in his culinary thrall. "Zucchini noodles, in a lemon, mint, white wine reduction." Those simple words belied the dish's true majesty. The noodles weren't just spiralized. They were double-helixed. It must have taken him hours. I almost didn't want to cut into them. They were exquisite. The crisp zucchini in the light reduction was the perfect finish to an excellent dinner.

As we lazed in the afterglow, with Pepperoni laid idly by me receiving scratchies, Professor Perkins finally saw fit to bring up my research… in a roundabout way.

"I am entranced by the megalithic structures of pre-history," he began, swirling his mezcal. It was a broad opening, given that my focus was on ancient foodways. "Aren't you? Stonehenge, the Pyramid of Giza, Sacsayhuaman - the lost, nameless cities of the Amazon. All of them magnificent, each one inexplicable."

"Of course, I agree," I ventured, sensing an opportunity. "That's part of the reason why the grant I'm applying for could be so crucial – I'm one of the few people in the world qualified to identify ancient food among grave goods and analyze it for what it is. If I could travel to these sites–"

"Yes, yes." He didn't roll his eyes, he didn't sneer, but his mind was elsewhere. He stared at a framed black and white photo of massive stones, joined together with masterful precision. Flawless. It could have been a megalithic site from any continent on Earth, centuries before the industrial revolution. "You were of great help to me in South Africa last year, of course. The seeds we recovered…" He trailed off for a long minute. I briefly wondered if the glass would fall from his hand and the night would turn bad. But he snapped to, and poured us both another round.

"Don't you ever wonder how they built it all?" He sat on the arm of the chair across from me. He had shifted into office hours Perkins, the temple orator leading discussion back to the one, true, holy answer. Pepperoni gazed back at him, an eager and trusting supplicant. "Even today, with all of our technology, we can't do what they did. How did they do it?"

"Slavery," I said, clearing my throat. "Decades, even centuries in which to build them."

"But that isn't always true, is it? In some cases, the erosion on all pieces of a megastructure dates them as nearly contemporaneous. Meaning a hundred stone blocks weighing two tons each might have been cut and joined in a matter of, what.. A month? How can that be?"

"You sound like a conspiracy theorist, Professor." I was drunk. It slipped out. He didn't like that. He wanted 'Evan'. But he wasn't acting like a friend. The only way out was through. "These days, we can't imagine the kind of influence religion had on society, on their ways of thinking. Through their gods, they knew with absolute certainty that those big buildings just had to be built. There was no way of not building them. In that mindset, it's inevitable they would find the tools to do so."

"What if," he said, his scowl evaporating into a sly smile. Sometimes all one needs is a good segue. "Their mindset, and their tools, came from the very same place?"

He rushed out of the room. I sat up quickly and regretted it, as I'd startled Pepperoni. In a flash, Professor Perkins was back, carrying a small wicker basket full of something wrapped in a checkered napkin. He actually knelt down on his knees in front of me.

"It's time I admit to you, Ms. Albert, that I invited you here under somewhat false pretenses." He was nervous, talking fast. He seemed on the verge of jumping up, in case I did - ready to stop me. I let him go on with a quizzical look. "You see, those seeds we brought back from South Africa… I kept some of them."

"They were never supposed to leave–"

"The library, I know, but I had to try. To cultivate them. And finally, finally - finally! It worked. I've grown something, you see. And I want you to be one of the first to eat it."

With that, he peeled back the napkin in the basket to reveal what looked to be a fruit, sliced into rounds, but I didn't recognize it. It had a rind like an orange, but it was deep purple, and slightly fuzzy. The flesh was pale pink, with round blobs of… something… interspersed. It looked a little like pimento loaf. It glistened wetly, and although it was initially revolting, I did want to taste it.

"What is it?" I said.

"It doesn't have a name. It's extinct. Why don't you try some, and tell me what it's called?"

"Is it safe?"

"Pepperoni ate some, and he's just fine." I had to admit the dog did look just fine. "I have some whipped cream, if you–" I took a slice and bit into it, letting the juice drip down my chin. I can't say exactly what it tasted like. It tasted like nothing I ever had before. It was bitter, and wet. And that is where my memory begins to fail me.

Some things did happen which I can pull from beyond the veil of that uncanny moment. Evan and I talked for hours, about biology and botany, terroir and substrates. He made sketches like a man possessed. I danced to French pop music from the 60's. I stared deep into Pepperoni's eyes, and I remain convinced that I could hear his thoughts (all love). I watched Evan dance, and I laughed, and I watched him try to move a salt shaker with his mind, and I laughed until I couldn't breathe.

When I next felt fully myself it was the next morning, and I awoke on a lounge chair next to the pool. Inside, I found Professor Perkins sitting on the floor, surrounded by sketches of the odd, new-old fruit, stroking the little furrow that ran up Pepperoni's head between his eyes.

"I failed," he mumbled, his eyes watery as he glared at the triumphant salt shaker, upright on the table. "It didn't work. I think you were right. I need a new substrate, something more germaine… I'm sorry, I've kept you far too long. It's time for you to go."

That was the last time I ever saw Professor Evan Perkins.

A week after our encounter at the pet store, I received a strange piece of mail. A letter of recommendation relating to my grant application. It was perfect. But one line stood out to me.

"Although I've failed many times alone, it is with Ms. Albert and through her inspired thinking that I've had my greatest successes. May her brain be the substrate on which the next generation of science grows."

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

im in. Blood Throne needs blood

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Week 519 Entry

Selling Quiltenbach
1148 words

"Sell, Joe. I'm telling you, sell Quiltenbach right now, or you'll be up gently caress creek without a cock."

The white impressions Joe's fingertips left in his reddened forehead when he looked up resembled a diamond-studded ruby crown.

"What the hell does that mean?" Joe asked.

"It means if you don't sell, and the market drops another five points, we'll all be shopping around for new cocks to gently caress each other with," said Brandon, planting his hands on Joe's desk.

"Christ, I gotta piss," muttered Joe. He got up but paused by the door. "Nobody's getting hosed, alright? Everyone's keeping their... everything. Trust me."

"Cherish these last few moments with your cock in your hand, Joe," Brandon called after him. "All the banks are circling and they all want a bite!"

Brandon hadn't slept in two days, and he was sweating thickly. He took a tin out of his breast pocket and squeezed behind the open door to snort a bump of cocaine. A light knock on the door made him spill a little. Brandon tucked the tin away and wriggled his head around the door.

It was Louis Healy, in his bad suit, holding his little greek coffee cup, which had to be at least half full of vodka. "What's up?" Asked Louis.

Brandon pinched his face and meandered the room, then rushed to Louis and grabbed his arm, hissed in his ear. "Get the team together. Everyone who's loyal to me. I need everyone. Conference room in five. It's happening."

Louis' eyes went wide. He grinned and swigged back his "coffee". He gripped Brandon's shoulder for a moment, then hooted, jumped and clicked his heels, and disappeared between the cubicles. Brandon wished he could feel the excitement of the moment like that, but there was too much weighing on him. His jaw wiggled insanely.

Five minutes later, Joe passed by the conference room and rubberbanded back. Nearly every trader in the firm was there. He looked for his nephews Jim and Kelvin, but they weren't there. Louis looked over, holding the projector remote in his hand. The fan on the projector started to blast.

"Mr. McEnany, sir," shouted Louis. "Any news?" Joe hesitated under the expectant eyes of so many young traders, nearly 20 in all.

"I'm glad you're all here," said Joe. "I want to thank everyone for putting in such long hours these past few days. And I know you've been waiting to hear my position on the Quiltenbach account. Well, I've decided... we're going to hold, for now. Not selling. In fact, if the numbers shape up, it may be prudent to buy in more. Buy the dip." The gathered traders murmured amongst themselves. Unhappy murmurs.

"Now, if anyone has anything they'd like to say, this is the time. I understand there are strong feelings right now. You probably overheard my discussion with Mr. Polones... Speaking of, where is..." Joe trailed off, hearing the squeak-click of the door closing behind him. He turned to face Brandon, who wore a dark expression and held something shiny in his hand.

Brandon flicked the butterfly knife open and shut repeatedly. "It's, uhh..." Brandon started, chuckling to himself. "It's not good, Joe." He nodded to Louis, who rushed to the presentation laptop and clicked around until a slideshow came up on-screen. Selling Quiltenbach: Pros vs. Cons

"Pro," said Brandon, affecting nonchalance even as his eyes darted around the room unstoppably. "These talented, smart, professional traders can claw back their leveraged positions. Some of them can even take a nice little profit."

Joe edged away toward the door. Louis took a few quick, long strides and got between him and his escape. "No," Louis said quietly, spilling a little bit from his cup onto Joe's shoe.

"Pro," continued Brandon. "And this is a good one! We all get to keep our loving cocks attached to our loving bodies. I don't know about you, but that sounds like an okay deal to me, right?"

"This kind of crude language has no place in my office," said Joe without a hint of a smile.

Brandon smirked, pretending to pick at his fingernails with the knife. "You're a nice guy, Joe. But you're boring. You're small. You're yesterday. You're ouch. Ow, gently caress. gently caress!" Blood streamed down his hand from under his fingernail. "Jesus, what in..."

"drat," said Louis.

Joe rolled his eyes. "Enough of this, I'm calling an ambu--"

"No!" Screamed Brandon, stabbing the knife into the conference room table top. He clutched his bleeding hand and moaned through the pain. "Con, Joe! Con! The con is, if Quiltenbach sells, then you--" Brandon tried to stick his bloody finger in Joe's forehead, but Joe jumped away and Brandon smeared blood across the front of his shirt instead. "--will be revealed as a coward. A sucker. Wrong. Completely smooth. Utterly… cockless. Naked, in front of the whole world, and the only thing swinging between your legs are those fat, hairy, useless balls of yours."

Joe could take a lot of abuse. He was a tough little guy. But after that tirade, he was beet red all the way up like a summertime thermometer. His fists cranked open and shut as he whirled on the assembled traders.

"You all agree with this? This... bullying? You, Dobbins? Even you??"

The spectacled beanpole Dobbins scooched to the back of the crowd and hid. Another trader called out, "Just sell!" The assembled traders agreed, stomping their feet and howling.

"This is bullshit," screeched Joe, loosening his tie. The deafening projector fan and his own pulse rushed in his ears, driving him stark raving mad. "Bullshit!"

Louis approached him slowly. "Woah, Joe. Calm down. We can still fix this." He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, flipped it open, and held it out. "Make the call. Sell."

Joe looked to Brandon, sitting triumphantly next to his stuck knife, squeezing his still-gushing fingertip, and back at the phone. Joe snapped. He took the phone and hurled it hard. It missed Brandon and shattered the window behind him. Lower Manhattan wind roared into the room.

Frothing at the mouth, Joe put his head down and charged. Brandon tried to get his knife, but his hand was too slippery. It clattered to the floor while Joe grabbed Brandon's lapels. They lurched around the room, Joe delivering punishing body blows. The traders screamed and crushed themselves into the far corner.

With his height advantage, Brandon maneuvered Joe to the window. Louis came up from behind and, without waiting for orders, lifted Joe up and threw him out the window. Brandon went right along with him. Both of them, gone. Louis looked around the room for Brandon, his grin slowly fading. He slumped to the floor, head in his hands. The frigid winds of finance were all that remained.

One-by-one, the traders all flipped open their phones, dialed, and whispered: "Sell."

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

In to deliver another steaming incomprehensible mess

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

The World's Most Gigantic Diamond
995 words

The first few days after I stole the world's most gigantic diamond, I slid around the streets like a big fat cat. Pure self-satisfaction. Just buying a cup of coffee made me buzz - acting like I was a normal guy, speaking normal words, like I didn't have the world's most gigantic diamond sitting in a pillowcase in my closet. I'd only go to sleep after pulling it down, giving it a little kiss, and buffing it back to clarity.

On the fifth day, a police detective knocked on my door. I brought him in, served him tea, and maintained the perfect facade of a normal museum warehouse worker who just happened to be on shift that day. He didn't suspect me.

"You won't see much on the news," he said. "They're not even naming the caper this time. Yeah, this case will be kept quiet. Even if we catch whoever did this, we won't make them famous. It only creates more criminals."

When he was gone, I let my eyes half-close, my nostrils flare, and my fingers tent together in glee. I hefted down the pillowcase. I expected to revel in the glory of the world's most gigantic diamond, but when I revealed it, something had changed. The stone had lost its luster. It no longer looked like a treasure to me. It looked like a rock. The smug bubbles that I tried to force to well up within me refused to do so. The tap had run dry. That was the moment I realized the detective had cut a wound in my ego, and it was already infected. My time was already running out. Eventually, I would make the mistake that every captured thief rotting in prison wishes they never had. Sometime soon, I would have to tell someone that it was I who stole the world's most gigantic diamond.

At first, I considered family. That same afternoon, I went to the cemetery, laid a bouquet on my mother and father's plot, and whispered into the marble about what I had done. I thought it would be bittersweet at best, but it was just bitter. After all, I had already had a whole fantasia about my parents watching over me during the heist. Angelic hands guiding security guards away from their posts and such. Telling them out loud brought me nothing, no jolt whatsoever. So, I took the train over to my brother's house, him being the most trustworthy person I knew.

Martin was working in the garage when I walked up. He was a car guy, and when that hood was open, it was probably his only moment of peace in over a week. Combined with my showing up unannounced, I knew he'd have little patience for me, so I resolved to tell him quick and make him understand.

"It's all good," he lied. "You wanna beer?"

"Sure," I said, hunched on the folding chair. "Listen. There's something I need to tell you. It's about... work."

His eyebrows went up. I was the boring brother, after all, no wife or kids, no career prospects. Never any news. But I wanted to really shock him. I wanted to see his jaw hit the floor, his eyes pop out, his buttons pop off and his shoes come untied. I wanted to savor it.

"I sto--"

"DADDYYYYYYY," his daughter screamed as she burst through the door, followed by both of her brothers and trailed by Sandy, Martin's wife, hauling the baby and talking on the phone.

"No, the invitations are hideous. Disgusting! Did her kids do it in crayon? Oh, hi Nick, how are ya," she said as she sped by, expertly lassoing the kids. "No, that thing?! No way it's real, have you seen how he dresses? If he spent a month's salary, I know of a house that'll be on the market soon, with a very motivated seller."

In her wake, my sense of self-preservation took the reins again. Even if I trusted Martin, eventually he would let something slip. His reaction when I told him, sweet nectar though it seemed in my mind, would eventually tip her off, and she'd chisel it out of him. I had to lie.

"I stopped going in. This big heist has me spooked. I... I need to borrow some money."

The look on his face was all too familiar. He whipped up the usual lecture. A little while later I was back on the train, $500 in my pocket and burning with self-loathing. Worst of all, I still needed to find someone to tell.

I thought about an anonymous call to a random number in the phone book, but that wouldn't work - I had to be believed. There was a therapist I saw a few years ago, but she'd turn me in. Despite the festering blister that my ego had become, I still didn't want a cure worse than the disease. I got booze, drank, and stalked the empty streets for someone lucid enough to understand me, yet blasted enough to forget. At some point, the night's spiral let me loose, and I found myself in a church confessional.

"Father," I gasped, on my knees. "I have to get something off my chest."

"That's why I'm here," came the voice of the gentle man behind the sliding screen.
I told him everything. How I'd planned it. What had gone wrong. How the world's most gigantic diamond was really only as heavy as an overweight cat when you carried it in the crook of your arm. Throughout my story, I could hear his little gasps, murmurs, and prayers to god. These were small morsels of what I craved, but it was a feast to me.

I went home quietly, took down the world's most gigantic diamond, and was relieved to see that it was back to its original brilliance. Except for a small stubborn smudge on one face. I'd have to find someone to talk to about that.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Week 390 Redemption

If You Can't Laugh With The Big Dogs, Take Off The Shirt
1686 words

I had my cargo shorts full of firecrackers, flip-flops duct-taped, wraparound sunnies on the back of my head, and I was wearing my most hilarious shirt. It was the best summer of my life, and I was fully prepared to be the breakout star of Uncle Ken's Fourth of July backyard bar-b-que. It almost worked perfectly, until Mitch Davis showed up to ruin everything.

I showed up right on time, at 4pm, when the party was already well underway and everyone (including me) was a few beers deep. Now, showing up at a party is an important moment - you don't want to go too big and throw off the vibes, make it all about yourself if you can't back it up. But just the same, if you go too small, fly under the radar, head straight for your little group of cousins, you risk getting called out by the host and roasted for not saying hello. And Uncle Ken roasted hard. I've seen even swaggy uncles get roasted into wackness by Uncle Ken. Style is a social construct after all; the clothes themselves are only part of the equation.

For that reason, I made a beeline for Uncle Ken on arrival, emitting a low party-animal howl, holding an ice-dripping five-pack over my head by the empty sixth ring, and already swigging down the missing beer. Ken was just where I expected him - manning the grill and having roaring conversations with anyone who passed within 5 feet.

"Ken," I bellowed, rattling the beers at him.

"Charlie," he returned with a gratifying rumble in his voice. He waved me over with his greasy spatula, set down his beer, and cracked open the fresh one I tossed to him. Uncle Ken always wore the same thing at his BBQ's, because he found something that worked: leather thong flip-flops, checkered board shorts, a salmon-pink polo shirt, and a wide-brimmed straw gardening hat. And then there was his apron, the absolute cherry on top. It was white (never stained, he took time to hit with the bleach pen), and featured an illustration of a naked woman's body, cut off at the neck and the knees. Sound pretty standard? Get this - standing over the woman, strategically covering her bush, was a very, very silly bright-orange crab, reaching up to pinch her nipples with its claws. So funny. Such a legend.

Uncle Ken and I backslapped for a few minutes, I gave him my order (two franks and a rack of ribs), and I started making my rounds. Everybody was there. Billy, Jimmy, Ashley, Tracy, even little Gary Rodger, just turned eighteen. None of them could hold an M80 to my fit, of course, but I didn't give them any poo poo over it. It's good for them to have someone to look up to. To inspire them. And obviously, I have to admit, it felt good to hear the peals of laughter that went up any time I turned my back to this or that group of folks, and they could see how hilarious my shirt was. Those moments are what keep me alive.

I'll never forget feeling that sudden fizz of adrenaline into my bloodstream when I heard Mitch Davis' truck pull up. It was unmistakable – the thing was lifted eight feet in the air, the shocks squeaked like newlywed bedsprings, and he was always blasting trap mixtapes through speakers that could not handle the bass.

In my head, it was fight or flight. I wanted to grab a six-pack and book it down to the river like a throne-warming bonobo when the alpha swings back into town. But then I remembered my armor. What set me apart from the beast of the forest. My undeniable style. My hilarious shirt.

I cracked open another cold one and stood my ground to watch Mitch's entrance.

What came around the corner of the house first were twin four-foot-tall denim ballerinas wearing pink cowboy boots, running for their grandma's open arms. Cute, I guess? Children don't interest me. Their sense of humor hasn't developed yet before fifteen. Mitch's kids probably even couldn't read a shirt yet, much less understand its nuances. But my chill vibe evaporated when Mitch himself turned the corner.

He had cool sneakers on. I didn't know what kind - I'm not a sneakerhead. I just know that he is, and if Facebook comments are to be believed, the ones he gets are cool. I expect it from him, and I don't try to compete. I win elsewhere, I assured myself.

His legs were tan and hairy. He wore baby blue and white basketball shorts that fit well, and it took me by surprise that he didn't seem to have anything in his pockets. Not even a phone or a wallet, which made his look seem more effortless.

When I saw his shirt, I felt a twinge of annoyance. I thought it was just a plain white t-shirt - like Mitch hadn't even made an effort to wear anything funny. I wanted to beat him, and I knew my weapon was strong, but the battle couldn't happen if he declared himself a pacifist. But then he flipped his well-kempt rat tail to his other shoulder and revealed something that made my blood run cold.

His shirt bore the exact same Big Dog logo as mine, on the right chest, only his shirt was white and mine was black. So, it would be a fair fight after all.

It was a long time before Mitch made his way over to the group I was in, with Ashley and Jimmy and a few of their cousins. He had to stop in with Ken first, of course. Ken loved Mitch's shirt. More than he did mine? I couldn't tell, and I couldn't get a good look at the shirt to judge for myself. I also kept my back turned away from Mitch the whole time, in case he was scoping me out too.

Finally, when his whassup's and howareya's to the others were done, he and I squared up. I had been watching the people walking behind him peek over and laugh, pointing his shirt out to others. It did make me sweat.

"Charlie," he said with a laugh in his voice. We bumped fists. "How you doin' man? Feeling good tonight?"

"Feelin' good. Chillin'," I said. His exaggerated grin and eyebrow raise referred to the little altercation we'd had a few weeks back out in Billy's field. A much smaller backyard hang than this, and thankfully word didn't get out that much, or at least it didn't cause a stir. Now this altercation never turned into a tussle, but I did lay some harsh words on Mitch at the time. I had said his shirt wasn't funny. (It said "Surfs Up Yours," and it had a frog in a straw hat surfing a big wave, with one hand giving a giant middle finger in forced perspective. See? Not even clever. We live in Ohio. Where's he surfing?) I didn't realize it at that moment, but Mitch's cool reply was what caused me to start looking for the most hilarious shirt I could find.

"Guess I'll have to have a funnier one next time," he'd said. And even though all I could see was the firelight reflecting in his Wayfarers, I believed him. Mitch Davis was a man of his word.

"Chillin', sick. Looking to do some of that myself tonight. But listen," he said, leaning close. The whole crew who had been at the Billy's field hang gathered around us to see what happened next. "I want to see that shirt of yours. Ken said it's a real gut-buster."

There it was. The gauntlet, on the floor in front of everyone. I flashed Mitch a smile. "Oh, this? Sure thing, bud." I cracked a fresh beer and turned around, straightening up while I tipped my head back for a long drink. To my astoundment, Mitch gave me the gift of reading it out loud.

"Listen here, chump," he started. "Keep your opinion to yourself. You don't want to hear mine." He paused, trying to work it out. I kept chugging the beer, but I couldn't even taste it. I felt his eyes roaming my back, taking in the drawing of the big Saint Bernard dog in shades, wearing army fatigues with a cigar in his teeth, and toting an enormous machine gun labeled, "MY OPINIONS."

He laughed. Loud, a lot, and it was real. I crushed my empty can and roared, charged up at my full power. I turned around slowly and gestured with my chin. "Let's see yours," I said. "Big Dog bro's."

Mitch grinned and nodded. He turned and took a wide stance, with his hands on his hips, his rat tail helpfully tucked over one shoulder. "Hey, crypto-losers," his shirt began. An icy pit opened up in my stomach. It was topical. "I got an NFT for you right here." In the foreground, there was the Big Dog, snarling as usual, with his crotch pixelated, and he was giving me the double middle finger. "Non-Flushable Turd," it said, with each letter huge to form the acronym. And sure enough, the Big Dog was sitting on top of a giant poop that stretched way down into the background, where it was stuck into a little toilet. Forced perspective. Mitch Davis' ace in the hole.

I wish I could tell you I didn't laugh. I wish I could say I stood there stone-faced, until Mitch packed up his kids and drove off, never to return. But I'm not that strong. Poop is funny. So yes, I laughed. And even though Mitch assured me mine was funnier, and the crowd at the BBQ was split, I knew what I felt. Things changed for me that day. I stopped drinking, and I stopped trying to play the hilarious shirt game. I let go of my hatred for Mitch, and he accepted me as a friend. We hang out sometimes, watch sports and things. You should see the art this guy has hanging in his house, it's hilarious.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Weltlich posted:

Gangbrawl 3: Stare into the Monolith

The Stairs
495 words

As soon as I crested the last dune, I whooped with joy and started to charge down the final slope, my nylon hat flapping in my hand. The rest of my team and the robotic sherpa dogs that came up behind me shared my enthusiasm, but not my foolhardiness. By the time they caught up at the foot of the monolith, I had filled the first quarter of my fine leatherbound notebook with schemata.

"Look at the clouds," I shouted. "They go around it, just like on the orbital recon!"

"Great, Annie," Bill huffed as his backpack hit the sand. "Listen, there will be plenty of time to explore. Let's get the camp set–"

"No way," I interjected. "I'm at least going to find the door before nightfall."


"Yes, I imagine it's somewhere up those stairs." I pointed to the steps that curved around the base of the structure. Bill groaned.


I refused to take it slow. I would stop to take etchings or make a sketch, and then jog ahead of Bill and the two tromping robots that accompanied us. After 30 minutes we had found no door, and Bill wanted to turn back.

"Are we even halfway?" He pleaded.

In all honesty, I couldn't tell either. When I looked up the side of the monolith, it looked just as tall as it had at the base, and the stairs just kept appearing around its gentle curve.

After an hour it started to get dark, and we heard faint cries from below. Bill did turn back then, leaving me with the robots. In truth, my legs were burning, but I had now come far enough that turning back would seem like I accepted the insult that this place was trying to lay on me. I did not accept that. I turned on my flashlight and continued up.

I kept my left hand touching the cool stone wall. The carvings and signs of weathering etched onto it no longer interested me, as I had seen thousands, but I kept my notebook gripped in my right hand in case my left should find a sudden opening.

When the robot fell, I finally had to stop, sit down, and reconsider my choices. I had time to do all three before its digital wail finally punctuated in a distant impact on the ground. I decided it was time to come down. However, when I stood up, I guess my knees locked, because I briefly fell unconscious and smacked my head on the wall. I went in and out as the robot carried me down the stairs. The sun was rising when I awoke.

"My notebook?" I croaked.

"You must have left it on the stairs," said Bill. "Don't move, you need to rest."

"gently caress it," I said. "Call the evac."

"What? Annie–"

"There is no door. No mystery to be solved. This isn't a monolith. It's a joke, understand? A bad joke. And I'm the butt."

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

I am in

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Bjorqvist Diaries
1248 words

"No, Dad, it is real basketball," Deonte hissed, squeezed into a corner of the locker room with his phone. "Can't you just be proud of me?"

The phone reception was bad, but he could still hear his father's heavy sigh over the line.

"Just focus on the money, son. Pride won't enter into it. Maybe you can try again at the next draft." There was no sign-off, no 'I love you'. Just those three beeps that let you know the conversation is over.

"Alright Gunbarrels, form up," said Coach Murray. "I want to start with a prayer to god for letting us have these precious hours on the court today." Deonte shoved his anger and his phone in a locker and joined the rest of the team. It was his first playing game out of college, and he'd be damned if he let his father’s not-unexpected truculence spoil the occasion. Luckily, the prayer filled him with resolve, and as he looked around at his team, he knew they could win.

"Next, I want to go over some more safety fundamentals," continued the Coach. "Most importantly, when you hit that trampoline, you need to keep your feet pointed down. I don't care if you bring your knees up to your chest, you keep those feet pointed down. You let those feet fly out in front or go up in back, before you know it you're going head-over-heels, and chances are you will not make the basket. Plus, in the test episodes, a player broke his neck like that, nearly died. So, feet pointed where?"

"Down!" Replied the team as one. Coach Murray grinned.

"Good. Now let's play some Slamball!"


Every Wednesday night on Fox, tune in for Slamball, the sports craze nobody expected to survive past 2004. It’s basketball but the hoops are twice as high and players have to jump on trampolines to reach them. Place your bets today!


The season flew by. Deonte kept his feet pointed down and his point average up. He was easily the best player on the Gunbarrels, and rivaled Jurgen Hoddog for the best player in the league. None of it meant anything to him. The only dates on the calendar that mattered were the start of NBA training camp and next year’s draft.

Between games, Deonte frequented street games to try and meet people, make connections. But nobody there knew who he was. He had to point to the giant billboard on the side of the mall, but even then the recognition was vacant. “We watch real sports,” they’d say, and inevitably they’d go out their way to cross him over and break his ankles. If there were any scouts watching, they never approached him.

Deonte also took to buying celebrity magazines and reading gossip blogs. When he found out where NBA players were hanging out in LA, he’d go down there and try to party with them, talk up the sport of Slamball and see if he could at least peel off a bit of respect from a player who knows what it’s like to be in the spotlight. The bouncers at the VIP rooms did know what Slamball was, in fact. It meant he wasn’t allowed past the velvet rope.

Inevitably, Deonte would wind up at Clappers, a sports bar that was midway between the hotel where most of the players were put up and the studio where the show was shot. Most of the boozier players hung around there, and since all of the teams lived in town, rivalries were known to come to a head at times. Deonte just kept his head down, drank, and checked the balance on his bank app. Until the night that Jurgen Hoddog was convinced to down two boots of beer and stumbled over to start some poo poo.

"I want nothing to do with it, man," Deonte said, packing up to leave. "Go back to your table."

"Nooooo," roared Jurgen, steadying himself poorly by the bar. He towered nearly a foot over Deonte's already considerable height. "You are rival! I hate you, man! I should gently caress you up!"

Deonte couldn't help but laugh. "Do you hear yourself? You hate me? Bro, we don't even play a real sport. We're on reality TV. That's it."

"Oh, you are even lower than I thought! I will gently caress you up with both fists now," Jurgen shouted. "Not only you are almost as good player as me, but you don't even care? No. No. No!! This will not be! For I am Jurgen Hot-Dog, from heart of Moldova! Birthplace of sport now called Slamball, and I will not have honor be… besmirched!"

"What?" Deonte was genuinely confused. "Slamball's from Moldova? Didn't the network just… make it up?"

"Not at all! In Moldova, ancient principality host Bjorqvist tournament, with ball made of inflated sheep bladder, and trampoline made of stretched pig skin! And, and entry of socialism only improved our noble game," Jurgen hiccuped. "Listen, I tell you…"

Once on the topic of socialism, Jurgen was easily steered back into the hands of his teammates. Deonte went back up to his room and did some online research. Weirdly enough, everything Hoddog had said was true. In fact, it seemed that basketball was actually a derivative form of Moldovan Slamball. This information troubled Deonte. He could feel a tingling change brewing in the tips of his toes.

By the time he was on the court the following Wednesday, the tingle had overtaken his whole body. For the first time on a Slamball court, Deonte cared. He was facing down Jurgen Hoddog and his Steamshovels, and no matter what he did, he couldn't stop caring about the game. Where before he had moved mechanically, executed his team's plays with precision, that night he was striving, sloppy - and downright bad at the game. It seemed to Deonte that the more passion he poured into every move on the court, the easier it was for Jurgen to stymie him. The Gunbarrels went down hard. But the strangest part was, all of that made Deonte feel good.

After the game, he stuck around the locker room and went over the game with Coach Murray to see what went wrong. Then he met up with his teammates at Clappers to commiserate, drink, and just talk to them, learn who they were as people. Deonte even reached out to Jurgen Hoddog, and together they went (mostly sober) to the Museum of Moldovan Heritage in town to examine oil paintings of Slamball games from the olden days. The NBA training camp and draft came and went, and Deonte barely noticed. For the first time in ages, he was happy.

It wasn't until a few weeks later, after a few more disastrously fun games, that his father called. Deonte answered cautiously, having tried to forget that such a man existed entirely.

"Listen, son," said his dad. Deonte held his breath. He was ready to be disowned. "I wanted to let you know that I saw your last game the other night. I haven't watched til now but your mother told me how crappy you've been playing lately. And, well. I just wanted to say that if you need any pointers, your old man can still show you a thing or two in the driveway. I can pick up some of those little trampolines from the store, even. I mean it, son, your game is in serious trouble."

"Sure, Dad. I'll be there." It was a start.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

This is a Gangcrit for "It’s the Truth" by "Dome Racer Alpha"

So yeah I don't know the lore of the Dome Racers or anything but I liked reading this little story. The voice is consistent, the action is clear, and a bunch of spooky exciting stuff happens, hard to ask for much more than that in 500 words. Plus the name P.P. Weiner is funny. I gather that's the whole gag of the Dome Racers, that halfway through "everything explodes," P.P. smashes through something and everyone's glad to see him. Well, I was glad to see him too, since as I said P.P. Weiner is a funny name and a funny guy to show up in the context. Although I guess it would be better if the main character of the story had something to do instead of just observing the problem and getting saved from it. But it feels like I'm playing a prank on myself by attempting to seriously critique this. I kind of wish P.P. Weiner would explode the wall of my apartment and stop me from have to wri

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

In on Alpha mode, please fill my blanks and #spinthewheel

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Week 522 Alpha
Blanks: A [spaceships] agonizes about [the toilet dimension]
Spin: Birthdaytar

The Brown Round
847 words

One single piece of poop floating in outer space doesn't get a lot of respect. Nor do two, or even three. But if you let that poop accumulate until there's a few thousand pieces agglomerated into one big log, exciting things start happening. Chemical reactions take place. Bacterial consciousnesses develop. All of a sudden, you're looking at a fully-functional living spaceship. Made of poop. Which calls itself The Brown Round.

Me. It's me. Hello.

Unfortunately, being a fully-functional living spaceship made of poop called The Brown Round doesn't get you a lot of respect either. Or maybe it does. I don't know. I achieved sentience alone, and I'll experience heat death, I assume, alone. Actually, no - not entirely alone. I do carry within me a clutch of eggs. That's you. Collectively, you're some of the only non-poop matter I've ever touched. A few dozen little rounded yellow eggs, stowed away in the various wrinkles and hollows about my constituent poops. I don't know if you're a young form of the original lifeforms that pooped me, or perhaps you're the poopers themselves, shrunken now by expelling me and hitched along for the ride. It isn't the sort of thing a bacterial consciousness can just intuit.

I didn't even know you were eggs until a few centuries ago. I was scooting along my trajectory near Ebolus II when a freighter ship pulled up alongside me. It hailed me with some hoity-toity message about "the honor of first contact" and "trading information about our species", so I shot one of you guys across the gulf of space at the freighter's hatch to see if they knew what you are. Well, they got one whiff of it, screamed "EGG" or "YEUGGH" or something, and sped off. Don't worry, I pooted my way over and recaptured the left-behind egg. I feel like you guys might be important. I still see the freighter, or others like it, along my trajectory. I can feel their scans. But they don't hail me anymore. They keep their distance.

Very few things that move through space get to choose their own trajectory. I also did not. Someone, or many several someones, pooped me out, and with the force of that pooping decided my destiny. Eventually, my trajectory will coincide with some celestial body's gravity, I'll be unable to escape, I'll crash-land, and environmental forces will shear my consciousness away until I'm inert, lifeless, even dissolved into the water table. It happens to asteroids. It happens to comets. It'll happen to me.

But maybe you'll get the better end of it. Maybe it'll be a hospitable climate for eggs to hatch, and creatures to thrive. I like to imagine the form you'll take when you're full-grown. Sometimes you're a bunch of little frogs, hopping around a pond. Sometimes you're a forest spanning dinosaur, hoovering up old growth at a whim. Always, you make your own little poops, and in that way, I can live on somehow, even if you don't remember me.

That's the way I try to keep my spirits up. Try to stay afloat. Bobbing along, waiting for that planet to enter my detection radius and–

Wait. Nevermind. I can see it. It's not a planet.

It's a wormhole.

And I'm already past the event horizon.

poo poo.

Wormholes are a lot like black holes, only they're not entirely black. They're certainly dark, especially down in the deep middle, but there's a bright white glow that stretches up around the edges. But the most fascinating feature is a yellow-brown ring that cuts through the white, streaking all the way around the hole. It's beautiful, but terrifying.

I'm sorry I failed you, little eggs. I would've given anything to see you grow up. Everything's going dark. No matter what happens in there, remember that I love you.

I'm still alive. I'm no longer in space. I've splattered, a bit, onto a marble floor, and my cold turds are rapidly warming. This is not the ideal scenario.

Someone approaches. A tall creature, in a resplendent headdress fit only for a galactic emperor! They reach down and pluck one of you from my runny, melting form. They hold you up for the gathered millions of their subjects, and they all cheer, with a deafening joy. Oh god, little eggs, I'm sorry. I failed you. Prepare to be ritually devoured.

Before my bacterial mind disbands completely, the emperor finally comes into sharp focus. They're tall, and thick around the middle. Yellow in color, wearing bright green vestments, their headdress a cascading tassel of fine, shimmering golden strands. And they aren't eating you. Not at all. They're gathering you up with utmost care, kissing each one of you in turn.

"Peace," they scream, amplified and echoed in every corner of the Corn Imperium city-planet. "War is averted! The galaxy will know peace!"

Can it be, my eggs? As I take the form of a wet puddle, and my last gas reserves release and float away, I still must wonder if it can possibly be - have I managed to bring you home?

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Crab and Spouse
1997 words

Our beloved transoceanic cables served as the backdrop for our nuptials, with the early morning sun glinting off my structure. I felt like royalty wearing one of my gorgeous denizens, in a gown stitched all over with shells and pine needles. Standing in the sand before me, so real I still could scarcely believe it - his rough orange claws gentle around my little hands - was my love. My Byron.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the union of these two…

I had followed him since he first appeared on the feeds from Sunken Hope. Byron Telson, the phenomenal acting crustaceomorph who stole every scene with his easy charm, soulful kindness, rugged good looks. He seemed to embody the spirit of the decade - that after the fighting, after all the desperation, we could have a little bit of hope, of reconnection, of rebuilding. And gods-away, he could dance.

Do you, Byron Telson, take this Abode to be your spouse? Do you promise to love it, to comfort it, honor and keep it…

I had used my Abode privileges to get in touch with Byron and see if he was the real deal. He was instantly receptive, and we began building a rapport. He was incredibly humble, and funny. Few on dry land can match a fishbelly's wit. I'd been smitten, but then I turned hopeless. When he asked me to send video tours of my interior, I wore a different denizen each time so I could figure out what he liked. We knew each other for four whole months when he asked to come for a visit. That visit has yet to end.

Repeat after me. I take you, Kelp, as my spouse. I promise to walk with you every day as your best friend, and your soul mate…

I wondered if Sunken Hope would try to claw him back. He was one of their biggest stars, after all. But no - he just walked up onto the beach one day, tall and glistening with ocean spray. He was followed by a dozen floating camera drones, though, constantly recording. I'm not used to competition from other A.I., but the Swarm turned out to have roughly the intelligence of a sea lion. Besides, Byron was utterly undeterred.

Although I am an indestructible forty-story building weighing over 400,000 tons, he still managed to sweep me off my feet.

With the power I claim from those who abandoned us, I now pronounce you crab and spouse. You may kiss.

With his claws tucked behind his back in a gentlemanly manner, Byron held his dactylus against the small of my back and dipped me, while he opened his mandibles just slightly to meet my lips, and stroked my cheek with his cute little maxilliped. Just like on the feeds, except I got it for real.

"I love you," I whispered.

"I love you more," he clicked.

The party was a whirlwind. We drank and danced, smoked and sang. My husband had the energy of ten men, or a thousand crabs. I couldn't keep up. Luckily, our guests were all my denizens (apart from the Swarm and the delegation from Abode Cedar), so I could switch out the one I was wearing when it needed rest. Somehow, Byron always knew which denizen I occupied, even without me saying anything. Maybe we really were soulmates.

When we'd had enough and his eyestalks wiggled that certain special way, I let him sweep me up, and we scuttled up the beach in the moonlight. He stepped aboard my elevator, and we carried each other across the threshold.


Happily ever after? Not quite. Life is rarely so simple as it is on the feeds.

The trouble began when I gave Byron his wedding gift. I had turned an atomic waste cooling tank into a live saltwater pond, full of replicated biological elements matching what he was used to at home. Plant life, fish - down to the amoebae. Apparently, it wasn't enough.

I miss nothing. It doesn't matter if it's a fraction of a second, or a lifespan. I see it all, and whatever my heuristic analysis can't immediately solve gets replayed as needed. So yes, I certainly noticed Byron's hesitation - however fleeting - when he ducked through the doorway to the pond chamber. I couldn't place his expression, and then it was gone. Tossed away in a whoop of glee as he splashed around. That joy seemed genuine enough, but he was also an actor. What truth lay within that slight drawing-up of maxillipeds I had seen? The tiniest outward tilt of his eyestalks? At a loss, I handed the matter off to background processing and tried to get on with our wonderful life.

I feel bad when I think about how I behaved during that time. To the extent that I can 'feel bad'. Guilt was never programmed in me. I had to pick it up from the feeds and my denizens. But I think it applies.

Byron was perfect, and we spent our days at leisure, walking through and around me, talking and laughing. He had his alone time, though I was with him then, too. I monitored him constantly, waiting for a pattern to emerge. I think he understood he couldn't escape me. He didn't seem to mind. But all the while, every one of my thirteen-thousand denizens had 8% of their brainpower siphoned away to cook up reasons why it was about to fall apart completely.


We strolled through a forest glade, smelled the summer breeze, and watched a frog scamper along a log in a pond. He tried to lure the frog onto his outstretched claw, but it swam across to the other end and croaked at us fearfully from the reeds.

Possibility: Byron is the advance scout for a Sunken Hope invasion that will slaughter my denizens.

I rejected that immediately. It just wasn't their nature. Besides, if he was communicating anything back to the fishbellies, I would know.

We perused the artisan market on my fountain plaza layer, where my denizens display and trade the handicrafts they're passionate about creating. Byron roared with pleasure at the many sculptures of himself he found among the booths. He also took time to admire a fine silk suit made by my denizen Giuseppe Ambrosius.

"I regret only that I can't feel the softness through my chitin, Don Giuseppe," Byron said, pinching the cuff gently in his claw.

"Come back next week, Mr. Telson, please," shouted Giuseppe, with round rosy cheeks and dewy eyes, hands clasped in reverence. "I make the pants with the four legs, and a coat with the big sleeves for your claws, eh??"

Byron turned down the over-generous offer, but bowed very deeply in thanks.

Possibility: Byron will leave at the first opportunity and make for Khosalu, where he'll be celebrated for his uniqueness better than my backwater denizens ever could.

It was true, he could leave at any time. But my denizens adored him almost as much as I did, and he had never so much as mentioned Khosalu. At the wedding he'd said the Cedar delegation looked like "a mismatched school of parrotfish," and didn't stop laughing for three and a half minutes.

In the afternoon, we played on the beach with the Swarm. Byron read his lines, faxed over by the brainiac writers in Sunken Hope, and I dressed my denizens as his historically-accurate background players and cowardly foils. Byron had never wanted to give up acting, and the fishbellies finally gave up waiting for him to come back home.

"Give us your gold, scalawag!" I screamed, wearing a portly denizen with a tiny tricorner hat atop his head.

"Never, you fiend! I'll die before I let you touch my daughter's tuition payment," Byron smoldered. "Know what? You and her have something in common. You're both gonna learn."

He pretended to wallop me and I pretended to die.

After the shoot it was hot, so I stripped myselves down and splashed into the surf. Byron dug himself down into the hot sand and watched.

"Don't you want to come for a swim?" I called. He just waved.

Possibility: Byron is afraid of water.

Believe me. I thought it was a joke at first, too. Sometimes my denizens surprise me like that - with jokes they don't even know they're making. But the more I considered the idea, the more it seemed to explain. I cross referenced the moments I had seen him hesitate, seen that sad eyestalk droop. They almost always occured in the presence of water. I didn't notice a wave until it knocked me off my feet.

Dripping, I approached Byron and shook myself off, sure to splatter him with water. He chuckled, showing no sign of fear. In fact, he pulled me into his arms and kissed me, for a long, long time.

As the sun set, I curled up in the crook of his claw and traced my finger along his thorax. It had always had rough bits, but now the smooth bits seemed waxy, and his lovely orange color had faded, like it was bleaching away. When I noticed an odd substance flaking out around his joints, I had to speak up.

"Darling?" I said softly.

"Yes, dear," he rumbled. I felt him more than heard him, pressed against him as I was.

"Are you… afraid of anything?"

"Losing you, my darling Kelpie, of course," he replied quickly. It was a joke we had shared. I've existed for centuries, and my personality cannot change spontaneously. There is no risk of him ever losing me. Only of the opposite.

"No, I mean… are you… afraid of water?"

"Afraid?" He repeated, eyestalks tilting down. I knew that look – I had caught him in something! But he took the spotlight with grace. "No, not afraid. I grew up in it. It did sustain me, for most of my life. I could never fear it. But now it reminds me… that I used to be someone else."

I started more indignant than I'd meant to. "What? No, you're the same. And as a crab, you–"

"I've been staying hydrated–"

"No," I said, pushing myself up. "You're a crab, you need salt water. I know your body is hurting. You could die!"

He paused for a long time. There, right before my eyes, was that enigmatic expression I'd spent so long puzzling over.

"I'm actually… not a crab," he said.

I had heard it. I even had an inkling of what he meant. But I've watched far too many feed shows in my life, so what came out was, "What?"

"I feel like a human inside. My great-grandparents took the crustaceomorphication procedure so they could work as cable technicians. A great honor. My family are all proud to be crab. But for me, it has always felt… wrong."

I wept as he spoke and took his head in my hands.

"I didn't choose this body. But for the first time in my life, here, with you, I can live like I'm not a crab. It feels so right, and I need to chase that feeling. I can't ever go back. Not one step. "

I nodded and hugged him, ignoring his roughness on my cheek. He sighed heavily.

"If that means you feel like I lied to you, or I'm not the person you thought…"

"No," I barked, in poor control of my behavior interface. "No way. I love you, Byron Telson. I need you to be happy. So if there's a human being inside you that wants to come out, then we're going to figure out how to crack you open and bring you home. I promise."

His mandibles opened and closed for a while. There was nothing on him now, no performance, no guard. He gazed up at the stars twinkling into all their possibility overhead.

"Thank you," he clicked, so softly that it could scarcely be heard beneath the crashing of the surf.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


copernic posted:

Alpha Prompt: A [failed fanfic writer] agonizes over [sentient weed]

I was on board with the characterization starting this off. I love the stoic, principled fanfic writer facing down the barbarians. Even though I don't have any experience with fanfic, the specifics seemed real to me. I wish there was a better description of the room, we get a little sense of what he broke later in the story but if his room was more detailed earlier in the story I'd have a more satisfying visualization of his rampage. The plot really drags to nothing in the second and third chunks of the story. You could have jumped to the plant being in full flower right after the first chunk and lost little. Or maybe you could have drawn out the process of the online reaction to his fanfic opus to give those middle sections something to do. The motive/logic of the plant feels very vague, maybe you could've had the protagonist smoke mysterious buds from the plant itself as the inciting incident, rather than regular weed? That factor of causality would improve the tension of the second and third chunks, as we wonder what other unknown effects the strange plant will have. Ultimately this feels like a pretty bad marrying of the two parts of the prompt (not that it's a particularly easy one), the fanfic stuff and the weed stuff don't really interact. The verdant, intoxicating growth of the plant (established with strong imagery in general) pings off of the protagonists unwillingness to explore the theme of sex in his own writing, but I don't really feel the resolution of those crossed ideas.

Yoruichi posted:

Omega Prompt #3
Flash rule: 12 words in your story are in alphabetical order.
Hellrule: Exactly one thing happens in your story.
Magnitude 6.2: Strong. Weak buildings are damaged. Fragile and precious objects are destroyed. Walking steadily is difficult, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

This is one hell of a hellrule. Unfortunately I don't think you nailed it, as a few different things happen in this story. Rose picks up her office, takes out the trash, and finally lets herself cry upon seeing a sign of hope in the wreckage. Maybe I'm showing my rear end as to what I consider "something happening" but it feels like three to me. The flash rule execution is a cop out but it's birthday week and this probably took less time to write than I'm spending to crit it. One thing that bugged me was the repeated hit of "Rose's mouth tugged down". First of all, what does she have to smile about in the first place? Wouldn't she already be frowning in this situation? Hitting it twice makes it seem significant, to the point where we need to know what her mouth looks like before it gets tugged down. Also, the moment of blooming hope at the end could be a place to pin a big character change by having her explicitly smile. Going from 'too much crying' to finally being able to cry is good, but the mouth tugging thing steals some focus. Overall, this story presents a nice little moment in time with mostly clear prose, an appropriate level of detail, and a meaningful turn in the status quo. Not exactly dramatic, but about equivalent to a newspaper comic tribute to a natural disaster, which is to say you are at least in the company of some published storytellers.

MockingQuantum posted:

Prompt #3
Flash: Time is a panopticon
The Brass Key

There is some cool imagery here and it really conveys a sense of wonder about this magical device. But in a sense it feels hollow, because there's no 'why' to it. Perhaps instead of just seeing the magic in the watch and bringing it home, it could be they've been looking for the watch a long time and finally found it. Hard to say how much more could fit in this word limit, without also cutting down the verbose tone of the descriptions, though. The descriptor "ant-colony sprawl" doesn't feel right to me. It's previously established that the protag is inside of everything that happens, not above it the way that descriptor suggests. And it's jumping ahead of the description, which is really moment-to-moment, so you shouldn't pre-summarize the experience of seeing all the houses grow out to become civilization. Maintaining that consistent point of view would sell this better as a complete piece. "Wielding time like a sickle to reap down the towering monuments of civilization" is a very cool line and you should feel cool for writing it.

flerp posted:

Omega Prompt #2: Autobiography
I saw an eagle cry!!!

Why'd you request a critique of this? The story itself is already a critique of your entire body of work! No but seriously, I do love this self-critical approach to autobiographical writing, and on the TD anniversary it feels very appropriate to be summing things up. I relate strongly to the feeling of emotional dysphoria you describe of believing there is a right way to emote that is unavailable to me, particularly around grief and sadness. Although I take issue with the logic that experiencing this and writing anyway somehow invalidates your artistic output. Calling out the lovely 9/11 poet is a great choice for this piece because it proves that many, many artists farm their grief for art and you never have any idea if what they felt was real or not, and the realness of the feeling doesn't have any bearing on the quality of the art. I struggled a little to critique the writing as much as I wanted to critique these lines of thinking, but I'll just summarize and say: try therapy. As far as the writing goes: There is generally very little structure in this piece and that makes it hard to follow. I would prefer if this was built around some sort of timeline or process, instead of rambling around somewhat repetitively. I wish you'd brought up some specifics from your old stories and shown me how they were fake instead of hoping I would know you and your work (I don't). Or maybe you could show me the false starts from your post-death writing attempts. "That poem never came to be" in the second paragraph is a little confusing because you didn't say your writing idea was a poem in the first paragraph. Feels like a typo but maybe it isn't? "My writer brain wants me to do more here" yeah that's a good instinct. I wanna read good stories, not bad ones! I bet you do actually remember whether he was playing online poker or Everquest, but you withhold that detail (which I'd really like to know). C'mon man!

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

1499 words

Jenna parked down the street so her beater of a car wouldn't be visible from the house. Mrs. Veronese had already given her the spare key, and mentioned at the office that they might have to head out by the time that she arrived. But Jenna refused to take chances. In Hollywood, appearances are everything. She knew the only way she'd succeed was by appearing like the confident, un-desperate rockstar creative executive she wanted to be.

She slung her new, overpriced, and hopefully returnable overnight bag over her shoulder and strode down the street. She was in Silver Lake, her ideal neighborhood, which of course meant an absurd price even for a one-bedroom. The drive from Toluca Lake had taken nearly 90 minutes, and the impressive sunset had come and gone. The sky overhead was dark blue, the kind of clear that promised you might see a star or two if you looked hard enough. The warm living room lights of the other mansions twinkled along the hillside across the reservoir.

The Veronese house wasn't hard to find, and it was gorgeous. A generous setback, with a tall hedge protecting a sumptuous lawn. Jenna walked the long driveway to the door and rang the bell. She heard barks and scrambling toenails on hardwood, but nobody answered. She used the key, and was immediately met by two huge, rambunctious Hungarian sheepdogs, the kind that look like giant mops. Jenna wedged herself inside. The dogs were friendly - very friendly. There wasn't any humping yet, but she was thoroughly slobbered-on and being sniffed in places that hadn't had company since pre-Covid.

Luckily, Jenna loved dogs. She scratched their heads, and bellies when promptly presented. Slowly, surrounded by the vortex of bad breath and dreadlocks, she made her way to the kitchen, where she found a note in Mrs. Veronese's long cursive.

Jen - Had to leave early with Rodg. Help yourself to anything. Noodles and Willow get a cup each from under the sideboard after 6. Thanks again for your help. We'll discuss your career when I'm back - promise! Delia.

Nothing unexpected. Jenna had done dogsitting gigs before. She'd just have to figure out what a sideboard was, and she'd be golden. But first things first. Her eyes found an extensive liquor bottle collection on one wall. She kicked the dog bowls aside and moved a chair over from the dining room table so she could reach a bottle of mezcal, the pricey stuff. She poured herself a stiff one and let her tour guides begin the tour.

Noodles and Willow made a Jenna sandwich at all times - one in front, one behind. Leading and herding. They sniffed around the bedrooms, the offices, the garage, with the insane old Camaro and the stacks of untouched promotional gifts Jenna hadn't been allowed to take from the office. They sniffed around the workout room, the bathrooms, more bedrooms, and the aesthetically perfect but useless corners where art was placed to soften the peripheral-visual experience of walking from one end of the house to the other.

But the part of the house that made Jenna stop and stare most intently, was the open air above the living room. Between the high high ceiling, the 12-seater couch, the switchback stairs, the midcentury brick chimney, and the two stories of pane glass and dark wood, there was a massive blob of nothing. That place, where nothing was and nothing could be, was larger than Jenna's apartment and car put together. She spent 60% of her income to spend 90% of her life in 90% of that volume of air, while it encompassed 40% of the total living room area and could be accessed by 0% of anyone.

Jenna drained the last drop of her drink onto her tongue and went to pour another one, but decided to go to the bathroom instead. Noodles and Willow sat by the sideboard and waited.

"Why was she staring at the ceiling like that? What was she looking at?" Asked Noodles.

"Maybe there was a bug? I don't know. It was creepy though, you've got that right," said Willow.

"I think we'd know if there was a bug."

"Maybe she was just admiring the design. The tranquility."

Noodles sighed. "I'm hungry," he said.

"Same here," said Willow. "It's way past time already. She's not getting it."

"You gonna do it?"

"I'm doing it."

Jenna emerged from the bathroom shortly thereafter with a suspicious look on her face. She stood still and listened hard. The dogs on the couch cocked their heads innocently. Jenna poked her head down the hallway and called, "Hello?" But there was no answer.

"Could've sworn I heard something," she muttered as she took her fresh mezcal over to the couch. She was fully ready to forget about the voices she thought she'd heard, plop down between the dogs, and watch trashy TV until she fell asleep. She was ready, until her foot squished into a wide, dark circle on the carpet and the acrid smell of piss hit her nostrils.

"Oh, no," she said. "No, no, no, no!"

Jenna went into panic mode. She rushed across the open plan to the kitchen and threw open cupboards around the sink, and finally found a bottle of spray cleaner. But there were no paper towels anywhere.

"Who can live like this?!" She screamed as she tore through yet more cabinets, only to be met with shelf upon shelf of fancy groceries she herself had bought and placed in the trunk of Mrs. Veronese's SUV over the last several months. Nearly untouched - but still no paper towels. She tried the cabinet underneath the liquor shelves, but the big bag of expensive dog food that was inside spilled out all over the floor. "So that's what a sideboard is," Jenna grumbled.

Finally, not even a full minute after her food had moistened in the puddle, Jenna ripped her shirt off and crushed into the wet spot, hoping to soak up at least some of the piss. She hesitated with the spray cleaner, wondering how much damage she could do to the carpet, and how much money she'd be burning if she ruined it. But piss was piss. She sprayed, and prayed. All the while, the dogs sat on the couch looking down at her, stubby little tongues panting away.

"Bitches," said Jenna. "I don't care which one of you did it. You're both bitches."

After she had done all she felt was possible with the shirt, she got up and took it down to the laundry room, leaving the dogs alone again. They both got up and trotted over to the spilled dog food and snarfed up what they could.

"Unbelievable," said Willow. "That language!"

"She didn't even let us out to potty. Obviously we have to. She didn't even think of it."

"And I'm still hungry. This wasn't our full dinner."

"Just awful. Not up to snuff at all. I suppose it's my turn then," said Noodles. He eyed Jenna's overnight bag, laying next to the kitchen island. He padded over to it curiously, pawed at it for a flatter target, and stradded it in a high-arched squat.

"Please don't watch me. It makes it harder," he said.

"Don't worry," replied Willow, hopping back up on the couch. "I've seen it enough for one lifetime."

But when Jenna returned from the laundry room to find the unmistakable scent of poo poo in the air, she didn't freak out as the dogs had expected. In fact, she had a dark look in her eye, and a piece of paper in her hand. She looked to the sideboard, where the tile had been licked clean.

"Ate all your dog food, huh?" She said quietly, almost mockingly. Like the way you mock yourself in a dream for having such a strange subconscious.

And then her eyes landed on the big dookie on her overnight bag. Fury flooded into Jenna. She charged across the kitchen and grabbed a big butcher knife from the magnetic strip - one thing that was easy to find in that prosumer maximalist hell. She whirled on the dogs, who looked alarmed.

"That's it," she shouted. "Get up. Show me your hands."

Willow ventured a bark, but Jenna shouted it down.

"Oh no! No you don't. I grew up poor, you think I never stabbed a dog before?! I said, stand up and show me your hands."

Reluctantly, Noodles and Willow stood up and unfurled, standing high on their hind legs. The long hair fell out of their faces to reveal the pink, well-moisturized, and terrified faces of Mr. and Mrs. Veronese.

"B-but," stammered Willow, aka Mrs. Veronese. "How did you know?"

"Receipt for two realistic Komondor costumes, in the laundry room trash can," said Jenna, holding up the paper in her hand. Then she dropped it and held up the big knife in her other hand, and grinned a twisted grin. "Now, get over here. You two rich fuckers are gonna die!!"

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Thunderdome Week 526
A Total Freakshow

Human and animal biology has stayed the same for far too long. Two eyes? Four limbs? One brain?! That stuff is old! Stodgy! Boring! WELL NO MORE. This week, I want to know how you think we should mix up the template. Give me a story about mutation. Intentional, accidental, beneficial, adversarial, metaphorical, metaphysical - the only certainty when a mutation occurs is that something new gets born.

If you want a flash rule, I will tell you the catalyst for your mutation.

Word Limit: 1500
Boilerplate: No erotica, google docs or external links, ideological screeds, plagiarism, fanfic

Fuschia tude

Submission Deadline
Monday 2:59AM EDT
Sunday 11:59PM PDT
Monday 7:00PM NZST

There is no signup deadline. But I would like it if you sign up so I can make a big list of names right here.

Mutant Marauders:
Idle Amalgam
Screaming Idiot
Quiet Feet
My Shark Waifuu
hard counter

Something Else fucked around with this message at 06:27 on Sep 5, 2022

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Thranguy posted:

In and flash

A meteorite that's perpetually hot to the touch

Idle Amalgam posted:

In and flash

Mad scientist messing around with chemicals

Screaming Idiot posted:

In! And open that trenchcoat and flash me!

Touched by an extraplanar deity at birth

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

That’s the spirit!

dervinosdoom posted:

You know what? FLASH ME

A barrel that has been leaking for over 30 years

BTW - if you want to join the Thunderdome discord where writing discussion happens, this is the link

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Quiet Feet posted:

Hello thunder thread.

In and flash me.

Beams of pure evil from across space

My Shark Waifuu posted:

In and flash, please and thank you

The unbearable pressure of living a life that just isn't enough

Ceighk posted:

fuckit, in and flash

The secret of the long-lost tomb

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

New Thunderdavatar lookin good. Thanks!!

An innocuous keepsake found in the attic

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


A hell of a lot of workout supplements

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Submissions are now closed for this week.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Week 526 Results
Full crits to bud off my abdomen at a later date

My strong and powerful fellow judges PhantomMuzzles and Fuschia tude have spent the evening judging you, and now you will hear our judgements.

Our Winner this week is Kiddo and the Bull, which had an excellent opening and intriguing interrogation of its core idea throughout the rest of the story.

We are handing an HM to Sparkle the Soccer Horse (despite that half a title) because it had a fun voice and imagery that made us laugh; and another HM to weirdo fish guy for a heartfelt, metaphorical tale that impressed me with its wave-like prose.

Emblazoned, we enjoyed your worldbuilding but your narrative was too sketchy and pulled-back. Forgotten Toys divided the judges, but despite a delightfully weird specificity, its character and story arcs got lost in the clutter. Ten Feet had its fans as well, but the overlong opening and confusing ending means we're sending it back for more training. Half the words in The Sounding of My Voice went over our heads, but the wild voice and funny specifics made it hard to ignore. I wanted more payoff for all the setups in Delivery, but much like the characters, it didn't end up where I thought it would. We couldn't get a handle on the protagonist's interiority in The Planter, and as a result, we are leaving this piece on the curb.

It is my great shame that I somehow inspired the rest of you to write these stories. We bestow a DM upon The Metamorphosis (IRL) for apparently coming close to plagiarizing the plot structure from Kafka and generally being unpleasant and boring aside from that. If I became a big bug in real life I would throw a garbage party, so you got this one very wrong! We are also giving a DM to True Name of the Sun because, while we were enjoying some aspects of your story, the gross ending ruined it for no reason and made us all hate you.

Finally, this week's Loss goes to Good Boy for syntax & punctuation that seemed... off, an agonizingly slow narrative build that seemed... wrong, and lackluster descriptions that seemed somehow... not quite right.

Good work Tyrannosaurus, the floor is yours!

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

I wish to attend the himbo hoedown

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Week 526 Crits

Copernic - The Planter
The process of getting statuefied almost always going awry and ending up with the wrong facial expression for eternity was chilling to me. Cool idea, though it doesn't really seem like mutation to me. I was on board with the first two paragraphs, although I was wary about setting up a character with a specifically well-honed wit. When you set something like that up you really have to pay it off well or you wind up looking worse than if you had never created the expectation. Unfortunately there wasn't really a payoff (neither straightforward nor ironic) for the wit thing in this story. Sad! In a broader sense, I felt that naming the character 'Dad' and giving us a lot of internal reflection from Fiona should really put us inside her head and help us understand why she disregards the statue at the end of the story, but the whole conclusion felt very opaque to me. The details in the last two paragraphs were less internal and more statements of action, which felt like a missed opportunity to communicate Fiona's emotional journey clearly. Lastly, the action of a casual kick to a vase making it explode hard enough to scratch the statue's chest seemed very insane to me, it sort of broke the reality of the story and made me scratch my head, especially to see her care about the statue so much in that moment, and then get ready to leave it behind the next.

Quiet Feet - Sparkle the Soccer Horse or All Praise to The Eye
The voice of this story is strong, it feels specific and tied to the setting. Great opening that clearly sets up the premise and stakes. I love when that stuff gets out of the way fast so I can enjoy the implications of the premise. Too many stories treat the reveal of the premise as a twist, and then there isn't enough time to explore. Not here. I also love the interjections of "All Praise to the Eye" which makes the story feel like a Futurama episode or something. However, I didn't think all the backstory about how everything went down with the book was entirely necessary. Showing the daughter the animals also felt like spinning wheels rather than moving the plot forward. I would've liked to see the story continue beyond this morning scene and see how the legged animals actually do or don't help the farm survive. Not getting to the point where the horse meaningfully plays soccer makes that part of the title bad to me, because it leaves me feeling like you made a promise and didn't fulfill it.

Ceighk - Delivery
This world feels very real. 90% of the stuff that happens in this story could have happened to a real person and I would buy it easily. Spare prose makes it an easy read which I appreciate. However, I was bored. You give us setups for interesting things to happen, but almost none of them pay off. The departure of Dad's girlfriend when the car breaks down is some nice melodrama, but it's kind of an illusion of agency for the protagonist to refuse her offer, since he's not in control no matter what he chooses. Nothing interesting happens when the dangerous guys don't get their package. Nothing interesting happens when the dad gets too drunk. Nothing interesting happens when the protagonist gets superpowers! How is that possible? Well, you managed it. I will say, I laughed at the description of the wish-granting fetus guy scampering out into the night. I couldn't stop thinking about him getting covered in grit and cigarette butts stuck on him and stuff. But maybe I'm too literal, and this story is meant to work more on a metaphorical level? Not clear.

MockingQuantum - Forgotten Toys
Gotta give it up for the level of specificity and oddness in the construction of this world. All the specifics about the dad's hoard are great. The mouse transformation is well-described and such a deliciously odd choice. However, I didn't really follow Mick's character arc, the stakes of the story, or the implications of the premise. It would have helped if Mick was actively looking for something in the attic, for example, rather than the ambiguous "cleaning it out". The significance of the mom's disappearance was lost on me in the first read-through; I thought Marla was saying the dad loved his junk collection more than them. Also, it was unclear to me if the Mouse-Mom was the real Tabitha having been transformed, or a version the dad had made to soothe himself that wound up getting magic transformation powers. It seemed like the story forgot about the dad when they went into the dollhouse, even though the first half was all about setting up the dad and his interests. I was expecting to meet the dad in the dollhouse, but him not being involved at that level made the first half feel like wasted time, or overexplaining just to set up that him have a magic dollhouse isn't crazy. The implications of the premise that didn't make sense to me were: can they leave the dollhouse, like to move around the rest of the attic? Does it change the way their minds work? Do they know/think about the non-dollhouse world? Is Mick now the same type of thing as the taxidermied mice? Is he trapped or happy to be there? I felt like the time that I would like to be used to explore these questions was spent with the characters grinning at each other and chuckling in polite tones. I also tend to have a visceral reaction to repetition, so I didn't like that many lines in the dollhouse portion had a variation on "or rather, X" or "or, X, I suppose".

The Cut of Your Jib - The Sounding of My Voice
Let me first be very clear and say that I do get the pun. It's gross, along with a lot of stuff in this story, but that stuff also tends to be funny because I like gross stuff. This is also a great description of a full-on mutation - not a transformation mistaken for mutation. I was really on board with descriptions of how the finger moved and interacted with its environments. Although I respect the stylistic experimentation with the wild narration here, it didn't always work for me. Perhaps intentionally reflecting the experience of a blind person, the action wasn't always clear. It first bumped me when describing Derek's internet use, and I couldn't understand how we got from "he reads forums" to "rude motherfuckers don't care about Derek". That the internet becomes all-important to following the premise here makes that lapse critical. Also, curing Richard's kidney stones seemed like small potatoes on the road to curing the whole culture. I didn't understand what was meant by 'Derek absorbed and subsumed Richard', but that didn't matter in the end. It would've been nice if Derek's relationship to Richard did matter overall, since so much time is spent on him. I don't know, aside from that it's hard to find more than nits to pick in general, since this story is so unique, so it's easier for assuming it's working on its own terms.

flerp - weirdo fish guy
This is a likable story, even though I couldn't tell if I should like Harry. I like the sweetness of Clyde and Harry's relationship, and I appreciate that it also feels complicated and real, creating a palpable bittersweetness which isn't easy to pull off. I felt that Harry's penchant for lying and Clyde's confounding tendency to like it when Harry diminished his passion created an ocean-like pattern in the prose. Harry doesn't like the beach, wave goes out. Clyde cuddles him all day, wave comes in. That was cool. However, overall, I didn't feel like I was really understanding everything this story was getting at. I don't really get what Clyde means about letting one dream be real at the end. It kind of feels like an ending, not necessarily the ending. You could argue that the story's about all the things we don't know about somebody and can never know after they die and that's part of grief and feeling this way after reading it shows I do understand it. I'm not sure. I can tell I like it and it's well-crafted but I still feel like I'm missing something.

My Shark Waifuu - The Metamorphosis (IRL)
This story bummed me out. I feel like turning into a giant bug would be bad if you had a good life, but if you had a bad life like Greg? Could be a great opportunity. But Greg gets even more depressing instead. I'm told that this is a beat for beat rip off of Kafka, not just inspired by it as I had assumed. I think that's why I don't understand why any of the characters behave how they do - if you modernize an old story, you have to be willing to modernize the plot along with it. Why does Greg pay Jeff's rent if they're not close? Jeff realizing that Greg is good for his stream views comes really late and he doesn't capitalize on it. There are scrappy edges of a fun story here but you got bogged down sticking to the tone and plot of the original. Disappointing!

Thranguy - Emblazoned
I loved the worldbuilding here. It reminded me of Astro City, a superhero comic that acknowledges the sad and hard parts of having powers (or not). I like the tone of this story and I appreciate how the narrative evolves even though it's really just a summary of the protagonist's experiences (like how Trisha turned into an assassin). You suggest a lot while saying a little with this piece. That being said, it doesn't really have a satisfying character arc, and some of the important events are so sparsely described as to leave me scratching my head. Like when Marcus gets shot in the head, and turns back into the Blazon - I didn't understand if that transformation was enough to save his life and mind, or if he was a brain-damaged Blazon after that, and that impacted my understanding of his sacrifice to stop Malice. I want more!

Tyrannosaurus - Kiddo and the Bull
This story is a great example of starting the story at the perfect moment. Not a second earlier than it needs to be, and jumps right into high-stakes action that reveals the premise. It's well-structured beyond that, with the well-placed midpoint turn of Grandpa deciding to tell the truth, and even a little dark night of the soul when you get into the prison mom stuff. I like the downbeat tone to superpowers material, kind of like what an A24 movie about a strong ranching Grandpa would feel like. Pretty much the only thing I feel like this story is missing is a circle back around to resolve the tension of whether or not the ranch hands saw Grandpa being strong, how much they know, and whether that information being public is going to raise the tension any further. That seems like it was forgotten in the strict adherence to the Kiddo's POV.

dervinosdoom - Good Boy
I am very sensitive to repetition. Partially that's just me, and partially that's a Thunderdome-specific consideration. If you only have a limited number of words available to you, you want to make the most of each one and not give the reader the same information over and over again. But I felt like that's exactly what you did over the first several paragraphs, with repeated mentions of seeing a mutant animal, and thinking little of it. I also felt that descriptions of the barrel contamination area were repetitive and broke the rule that you must "show, not tell". If something looks wrong or hideous for example, I would like to know in what particular way so I can visualize something unique in the way that you imagined it to be. On the same note, the line "I don't think I need to fill in the rest" made me laugh to read because that's kind of the whole point. If it's a situation pretty much nobody has ever been in before, you do need to fill in almost everything. All of the above would be acceptable with a certain tone of voice in the writing (a lighter comedic tone) but didn't feel intentional here. I thought the action in the latter parts of the story was decent, you definitely deliver on the premise of a dog getting mutated. Between that and the government agents showing up the story has a Spielberg vibe to it that I can appreciate. However, the relationship with Baxter should be more-or-less the whole story. We should care about Baxter from moment one of this story, know his personality closely, and hurt with the protagonist when Baxter changes.

hard counter - Ten Feet
There's plenty of good stuff going on in this story, like how Dynamo's recollections from the past mirror the struggle of the present. That's a really cool device that makes us gradually care about him getting back to his former glory without needing a lot of frontloading. But it also ended too soon; it seemed like you ran out of time to build the whole story out and rather than compress it you just cut it off. The teenage memory of hopping into a tree doesn't really make sense to end on, it's not nearly heightened enough. I liked the contrast between Dynamo's internal monologue vs the way he presents himself to people, to still act heroically by giving them the person they need him to be. However it didn't feel like this dynamic developed over the course of the story. The last line reads a bit like he's had an epiphany, but it's ambiguous to me, like nothing has changed even though he has made good physical progress. If nothing changed, it makes the story feel kind of pointless overall. That's probably real for people who have to do physical therapy like this, but I want a story to have more resolution than that. The first half of the story feels way too long, most of the story could/should take place between the parallel bars. I thought it was odd that the narration referred to him as Dynamo even though in his head he's Brandon, but maybe that was intentional, like he's still actually Dynamo whether he accepts it or not? That could be clarified. This one has a lot of potential, you could sharpen it into something really nice!

Screaming Idiot - True Name of the Sun
This was an enjoyable story right up until the very end. I like the opening a lot, especially after we learn that the sun is sentient, and not just anthropomorphized as a rhetorical device. That sort of thing could have carried through more of the story until they get inside, to really juice the fun opportunities there. I was disappointed that the second half of the story got bogged down in backstory/exposition and lost all momentum. I was also disappointed at the underwhelming description of the mutants' faces. That reveal is kind of all you have left at the end of this story, so you should have gone for it much harder. I don't need to reiterate how unpleasant the final turn is, but you might have gotten away with it if you had cut back the backstory and left room for some well-described defiant action at the end.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Sophre's Sunbell
1097 words

Lordling Fillion dashed between the standing stones into the wildflower grove, his cloak flapping behind him. The indentured golem Matthew lumbered in after, his heavy footfalls deadened by the moss. "There is magic here, master," Matthew said, in his voice like the grinding of millstones.

"Enough, Matthew! Now quickly, fill your basket with flowers. Catherine's wedding is in one hour, and you will no doubt slow us greatly on our return."

"Certainly, master," replied the golem. Fillion found a patch of heather and laid down to watch. With great gentleness and care, Matthew picked only the most resplendent wildflowers, at a rate of one every other minute.

"Faster, faster, please Matthew," Fillion groaned languidly.

"I make all the haste of which I am able, Master."

On the breeze, a third voice drifted into the ancient grove. "Your golem is quite handsome, young lad." Fillion lifted his head off his resting arm and peered around. It was true that Matthew had been carved with a pleasing visage, but all statuary and golemae were in that day; it was the height of fashion.


"Do you not know that these flowers are protected by ancient compact? Or do you simply not care?" The lovely voice seemed unto itself like the running brook which they had crossed at the border between the town and the wildlands.

Fillion scrambled to his feet and backed up against the nearest standing stone. Remembering it late, he fumbled to get his old dagger out from his belt, and pointed it out in front of him. "Reveal yourself, whoever you are! I shan't stand for trickery."

At first, all he saw was a leg, pink and shapely, kicking out from behind the stone across the glade. It was followed by the nude form of a woman, with black hair down to her stomach, and eyes that shone darkly like the night sky. As she slunk around the stone, a rolling wave of mist shrouded her feet, and Fillion finally saw that she carried with her a long-handled butterfly net.

"Trickery would be quite unbecoming of an agent of the greenfolk," she said with a smirk.

Fillion gaped, and made no effort to control his twitching eyes as they took in every inch of her. When they landed back on her upturned mouth, his mind awoke again. He gave a weak laugh and lowered the dagger. "Greenfolk?" He said, his mouth suddenly dry. "Like the children's fable?"

"Would that be so bad?" She teased, drifting gently between the flowers. "Some of my best friends come from fables."

After a moment, Fillion laughed again, though not because he understood her. "That's funny. You're quite funny!" He stowed the dagger back on his belt and tried to turn his protective stance into a suave lean against the stone. "I say, which village do you hail from? Weltlich? You have the bearing of a Weltlich lass."

"The name of my land is unpronounceable with this fleshy tongue. But I would whisper it in your ear if you should favor me with your kindness, my lord."

Fillion looked up at the shifting leaves overhead. It was the commoner's pastime to lay their pleas at the feet of lords, and the lord's responsibility to step over them. But a lord who stepped past a beautiful woman should be exiled. "What would you have me do?"

She took up her net, and twirled it around before her. The wind of it whipped fallen leaves and petals into the air. Her hair shifted with it, and the glimpse of flesh that Fillion saw made his heart beat quickly. Finishing the motion, she laid the net's hoop at his feet. "I've come to catch a butterfly. But my net may not be up to the task. If you truly wish to help me, jump on with both feet, and I shall yank upon the handle, and we shall see if it holds up to the strain. Do this, and you may know as much of me as you wish to learn."

As the petals rained down upon his shoulders, Matthew looked across the grove to where his master was transfixed by the gaze of this strange woman of the wood.

"I accept," said Fillion. He stepped forward and placed his fine-slipped feet into the net. The woman tensed the long handle and smiled, revealing wide rows of thin, needle-like teeth. She yanked upwards, and Fillion disappeared into the net. He was gone. She laughed long, and the songbirds of the forest sang back in kind.

Matthew picked another flower and placed it in his basket. He spied the next most desirable one, but as he turned toward it, he found the woman blocking his path. Her bearing had changed - now she crouched in the heather, with the empty net over her shoulders and her arms crooked around it, and her black hair shrouding her face.

"And you, golem?" She croaked. "What should be done with you?"

"I don't know," he replied after a moment. "I do what my master decrees."

"I don't see any masters around here, do you?"

Matthew stood up to his full height, nearly as tall as the standing stones themselves, and looked around. "No. I do not. He went into your net."

"Quite right, big man. For his sins."

"In the absence of my master, I am to continue my last helpful task. Please step aside, so that I might pluck the exquisite Sophre's sunbell behind your foot without disturbing you."

She didn't move. "That I cannot do, stony lonesome. I guard this place, you see, and each flower within. The basket you carry is a bouquet of my failures. I cannot let you leave with it."

Matthew looked into the basket. "This bouquet is for the wedding of fair Mistress Catherine, and she will smile to see them. Thus I must return with haste, and with that Sophre's sunbell too."

"Catherine, mortal bitch," the woman snarled. "No! You're coming with me!" She leapt up and thrust the net down over Matthew's head. But nothing happened. She looked bewildered, her black eyes searching and angry.

"Golems are resistant to magic," Matthew rumbled. He punched the woman under her chin, and she went flying up, over the treetops, and far, far away. "It is for our friends' protection."

Matthew took his time in gathering the rest of the excellent flowers from the glade, and when he returned to town, Catherine gave him a kiss upon the cheek, and the question of wherever Fillion had gone did not arise for a fortnight.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Here's my song

i guess i'll write a story too

Something Else fucked around with this message at 19:02 on Sep 12, 2022

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Bad Luck
1590 words

Eamon wandered through the carnival sullenly. He couldn't enjoy the rides, though they were extraordinary in the heights they reached. Nor could he muster a grin for the antics of the passing clowns, nor their fantastical balloon creations. Not even the prizes in the shooting gallery enticed him, even though he knew he could win them all easily in an afternoon. The damage had been done 3 years ago, when his father's work had him moving around the interior of the country every few months. By some strange happenstance, everywhere they went, they were sure to be around when a carnival came to town. South, Midwest, Rockies, it didn't matter. Soon enough, a carnival would roll into town, and Eamon would be dropped off to spend the day there. His mother was continually kicking a pill habit she had picked up from the back of a magazine, and she needed the house to be a place of serenity. Eamon soon came to know the standard carnival layout intimately. He rode every ride, he played every game, he ate all the food, he saw every show, and he got on a first-name basis with all the freaks. At first, certainly, it was a joy. But over time, the novelty drained out of the carnival, and he saw it as a gaudy day-care that he could not wait to leave.

After two years attending the carnival every other week, Eamon's father finally found a job that needed him to stay in one place. So they moved to that place, and no carnival came by for a long, long time. Eamon took up football, made some friends, and he had begun to forget the jaunty rhythms of the organ grinders. But then, his mother's condition took a turn for the worse. She tore couch pillow in half with her bare hands, pointed straight at Eamon and screamed, "I CAN'T LOOK AT THIS loving PILLOW ANY MORE! IT REMINDS ME OF YOU!!!"

Later that morning, Eamon's father drove him to a carnival in the next county over, slapped a roll of nickels in his hand, and promised to pick him up at least before midnight. Eamon sighed and trudged across the sand, under the flapping string of flags. In his pocket, he picked open the paper roll around the nickels, knowing he'd need them soon. Entrance to the carnival was free, of course - but if you wanted to do anything there, it would cost you.

At midday, the sun was high and hot in the sky, so Eamon paid a nickel to Barnaby the ferris wheel operator and took the ride, at least to be in the shade of his car's canopy and the breeze of the higher elevation. The carnival wasn't well-attended at that time of day, so Barnaby stopped the wheel while Eamon was at the top and let him rest there for a while. Eamon closed his eyes and tried to imagine the opposing team at the line of scrimmage, and how he'd react based on their formation. He looked from a receiver downfield and brought his arm back to throw – but in his hand was no football, it was a pillow.

Something smacked Eamon in the face. It was the empty popcorn bag. It fluttered out of the car and away on the wind. Looking after it, Eamon noticed something strange. At the edge of the carnival, around the corner from the big top and the animal cages, where nothing more should be, there stood an old purple-painted wooden carriage, and a skinny horse drinking water from a bucket. When Barnaby brought Eamon down, he thanked the man and asked him about the unusual new addition to the carnival.

"That's Madame Chernovsky's Nickelsworth Luck Game," Barnaby said, reciting the title slowly. When he finished, he smiled wide at his accomplishment.

"Luck Game? I've never heard of that before," said Eamon. "I thought I'd seen everything you all have at the carnival, and then some."

"Yeah, it's a Luck Game," repeated Barnaby. Eamon stared at him for a moment, then thanked him again and made his way across the carnival grounds. He fished around in his pocket - he still had over half his nickels left. Plenty to get him through to nightfall, if he spent them wisely.

When Eamon reached the big top, he had a hard time finding the purple carriage. It was like it had disappeared, or the carnival had closed up to hide it from him. But, ducking under the bearded lady's breeches drying on a line, he finally found it. Sure enough, painted across the side in faded golden lettering, it said MADAME CHERNOVSKY'S NICKELSWORTH LUCK TEST. Eamon paused. Hadn't Barnaby called it a game? What was the difference between a game and a test anyway? As he pondered this, he noticed that the door of the carriage was open, and the steps below it were laid out welcomingly. The sun was still high in the sky and moving slower than Milbert the Snail Man, so Eamon took the chance and went inside.

"Welcome, young man," said the old, old woman, who was seated on a massive, colorful pillow on the floor. Before her, a low ornate table was laden with burning incense, golden trinkets, and a deck of long cards. "Sit." Eamon sat on the pillow opposite her, and sunk into it quickly.

"My pillow is a good fit for you," she said. Eamon knew her name sounded Russian, but she didn't have a foreign accent at all. "Would you like to try my Luck Test?"

"How does it work?"

"I do not explain it. To explain would introduce elements to the test that would invalidate it. Give me a nickel and test your luck, or be on your way."

Eamon was taken aback by her stern tone. But having nothing to lose, he handed over his nickel. Chernovsky snatched it up quickly and secreted it away somewhere behind her back. Licking her lips, she took up the deck of cards and shuffled them. Eamon wasn't impressed - he had seen card sharps ply their trade dozens of times. Then, she dealt cards out on the table, ten in total, evenly spaced. Placing her hands flat on either side of the table, she said "Choose."

He pondered the cards in front of them, then pointed to one in the top row. She nodded suggestively, and he flipped it over. He was expecting a design, like a king or a queen, but all there was was a number, large enough to fill the whole card, black on white. It was a 4.

"Another one. Choose again," said Chernovsky. This time Eamon didn't hesitate, he just picked up the next card over and turned it. It showed the number 2. Chernovsky groaned and closed her eyes. Eamon couldn't imagine what she was thinking about as she swayed gently from side to side. Then she stopped, gasped, and sat straight up.

"You have bad luck," she said.

"What? You mean, I lost the game?" Eamon asked, confused.

"It's not a game," she snapped as she gathered up her cards, shuffling the 4 and the 2 back into the deck. "You have bad luck."


"I don't know. Ask God. I don't make the luck, I just test it. You can go now." She lit another cone of incense, and the thick smell filled the small space.

"Go?" Eamon was indignant. "No, I want to know what you mean. I don't have bad luck. I just didn't flip the right cards. Let me go again." He poured his remaining nickels onto the table.

Chernovsky's eyes grew suddenly fierce. She ignored the nickels entirely. "Has your life been good? Do good things happen to you? Is that why you're here right now? I doubt it. My test works. You have bad luck. Accept it."

Eamon felt heavy. The pillow seemed to grow deeper, sucking him down into it. "My life hasn't been good," he said quietly. "It hasn't been good at all."

"Right, so, yes," she said, spreading her hands erratically, as if doing this would help him understand. "You got bad luck, you were born to bad parents, your life is bad. But! That's life, and you have to accept it."

He stared at the wafting curtains behind her. "Can I be a football player with bad luck?"

"Sports? Oh no. Stay away from sports. You'll embarrass yourself. Things may go well, but that's just luck picking its battles. It'll come for you when it matters. Everything will go wrong. That's the kind of luck you have, young man. Bad luck. The worst kind."

He was quiet for a long time. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Even though it had happened in the space of a few seconds, something about it felt undeniable. Everything was changed. Eventually, his gaze drifted down to Madame Chernovsky, who stared back impatiently. "What kind of luck do you have? If you don't mind me asking."

She scoffed. "I have bad luck too. Rotten. My horse will probably die tomorrow. Go now. Get out." Eamon gathered himself and left the carriage, not even bothering to take the nickels with him.

Some hours after nightfall, his father returned to the carnival. He was eager to get Eamon home, because his mother had come to her senses and wanted to apologize. But the boy was nowhere to be seen, and the wind whipped dust over the footprints that lead out into the desert long before they were found.

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

In and a flash please !!

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Pressing the Flesh
1499 words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

In with this supportive demon friend

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


The Devil's Romance
1066 words

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

"Like the look of her, do you?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and did I mention Anne is pregnant?


Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Thunderdome Week #532: Paseo Yortuque

In the city of Chiclayo, Peru, there is a wide boulevard called Paseo Yortuque. Down the center of this street there is a walking path studded with statues of gods and monsters, many sculpted by Fredy Luque to express the enormously influential Moche and Lambayeque cultures of northern coastal Peru.

Sign up, and I will give you a statue from Paseo Yortuque to inspire your writing. You can search and pick your own if you want, just make sure you post it in the thread so I don't double up. However I will double up at my discretion if too many people sign up. Your story certainly can, but doesn't have to be set in Peru or feature the imagery of the statue! This site has a bunch of decent pictures of the statues.

Boilerplate: No erotica, google docs or external links, ideological screeds, plagiarism, fanfic

Word limit is 1375.

Write a story inspired by a Paseo Yortuque statue in 1375 words.

I will close submissions capriciously when I start reading on Monday 10/17 (Pacific Time).


Idle Amalgam
flerp :toxx:
Chernobyl Princess
dervinosdoom :toxx:
Sailor Viy
The Cut of Your Jib
hard counter
The man called M :toxx:

Something Else fucked around with this message at 04:40 on Oct 15, 2022

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