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Apr 30, 2006
In. I’ll take 2!


Apr 30, 2006

- A secretarybird
- Fire

1019 words

There is no time for the secretarybird to return from her forage before her eggs are consumed by an angry gust of flame, and as she stomps the head of a gaunt-looking grub she feels an ache inside.

It is a myth that the secretarybird stomps its prey out of a sense of wonton cruelty – she stomps because it is direct, it is blunt, it is merciful. She wishes Fire would issue her the same cruelty.

There is nothing Fire will not take from her: her home, her future, her children, turned to dust among the ashy shrubland. There was a time when she’d made peace with Fire, when its rages were more quickly tempered, when it had a sense of mercy. There was a time where her eggs hatched unmolested, her nest undisturbed.

When she flies back to the nest a few nights later, after the blaze has turned to embers, a glint of hope in her breast, it is dashed in the utter devastation of a field of indistinct soot. She tilts her head at a charred coal, wondering if there could be a shell beneath it. She tips it over with a foot and there is nothing.


She flies far. Each time, she thinks she’s flown far enough to a place that surely Fire won’t reach, just days and days of aching wings. It’s a good sign when the lizards and mice are plentiful again. Maybe the other birds are attuned to Fire in a way she isn’t, and they escape and feast before she can get there. Maybe the earthly creatures are attuned, too.

Another secretarybird beneath her dives and lands upon a squirming adder. She perches on the stripped limb of a tree and looks down at him and his determined stomp. It’s the first sighting she’s had of another of her kind since Fire’s last attack, and it troubles her. Competition. Scarcity. Another thing to lose to another inferno.

What had she done to offend Fire? Nothing. Perhaps the plucking of the charred flesh of a hare from its devastation? A sign of disrespect, a lack of the requisite awe? Even so, she learned the lesson. She learned the lesson.

The secretarybird below peers up and screeches at her, and she flaps her wings. She can’t commit to a mate while Fire was still seeking her.


She flies over a well-picked over field of still smoldering ash; nothing remains twitching in the singed grasses. Her stomach is empty. Somehow she’s slower than the others, or maybe that’s just part of the curse that Fire has placed on her.

And then.

A towering mass of steel, warped and singed at the bottom, has melted into an angular shelter and beneath it – a bit of green, a fallen tree. She swoops down, hardly daring to hope for dinner. But under the shelter, a twiggy nest survives. And inside the nest, three small eggs.

She knows they aren’t her eggs. And of course she knows they aren’t even secretarybird eggs. But they’re eggs of some creature lucky enough to escape the ravages of Fire, and something blooms inside of her, some steely slick of determination. She won’t leave these eggs.


The mother bird comes back in a few hours, fragile and starving like the secretarybird. The secretarybird is sorry. The mother bird is a tiny sunbird, green and brilliant even with its stripped matted feathers. If it weren’t for Fire’s grudge, they would have coexisted on different parts of the grassland, appreciating each other in a nearly imperceptible way.

But that’s not the world the secretarybird lives in. Even in hunger, it’s not hard for the secretary to crush the mother bird’s skull beneath her feet.


She’s afraid to leave the eggs, but after a day the hunger in her belly sharpens to a pain and she knows that she needs to prepare for motherhood. She eats the mother of her future children but still needs more, the sunbird is small and dainty and she is large and can’t be satiated by one kill alone.

She knows Fire is wily and when it learns it has spared these eggs it will be back, more furious than ever, and so discretion is key. The earth has been scorched long enough ago that anything still squirming in its wake will have died or already been harvested, and traveling beyond Fire’s reach will take hours. And Fire will know when she leaves. It will follow her once again and take away the eggs she’s fought so hard to protect.

Above her, she sees the occasional other bird flying past. Most of them are in pairs, in flocks, and the secretarybird dimly remembers a time where that was true for her as well. Maybe she was meant to be eradicated by Fire, like the rest of them, but through grit or maybe just luck, she’s still here to watch the other stray birds survey the wasteland. She knows some of them have seen her. What she wants is for one or, well, even two of them to come down and investigate that slab of warped steel and the stirring beneath. She can take care of the rest. She knows she’ll win.

She pokes her head out, focusing on the ache inside of her, hoping she’s looking ill, pathetic, scavenge fodder. A pair of secretarybirds swoop over her but seem to reconsider an investigation.

And then a bird she’s never seen before lands in front of her, just out of her eyesight. It’s a brilliant kind of red and orange, spectacular even in her weakened state, and also nearly twice her size.

She tries. She stands and kicks at the huge shimmering bird but the bird singes her foot, and in a second bright embers peel off of the bird, and it’s past her, into the fortress.

The secretarybird doesn’t need to process to know what the bird wants to do. But she refuses to let Fire win this one. She takes her foot and stomps on each egg, a half-second before Fire’s bird erupts into its awful conflagration.

Apr 30, 2006

Apr 30, 2006
In. assign me something!

Apr 30, 2006
In toxx Cindy box

Apr 30, 2006

Sitting Here posted:

:siren: :siren: This is the first story in the story chain. Who will write the first sequel? What crazy branching timelines will you drag the judges through??? :siren: :siren: :siren:

Written by Crabrock.

WEEK 500DRED Prologue
500 words

Sitting Here posted:

Dave reaches into Dr. Cindy's box and hands you...An old, worn-out locket with something stuck inside

I Love My Robot Son
488 words

Half of Dave finished when the light dimmed and there was a different face on the left side of Dave’s head – where there once was an eye, there was now a shining green scaly shimmer, and his mouth terminated halfway across his face in a sharp scar.

He coughed and expelled a volley of apple seeds from the corner of his mouth. I was going to check on him, but I needed that call, and so, with an apologetic shrug, I picked it up.


“Miss Cindy. It is a privilege and a pleasure to hear your voice.”

Andrew’s voice had changed, grown more natural and acclimated to the local accent, but the tinny quality was still there. So too was that husky note of admiration that Dr. Cindy had programmed in, something that was meant to sound authentic and compassionate but sounded wrong coming from a robot. He had decided, years ago, that he was grown, and would no longer be living in the lab, and when Dr. Cindy had refused to let him leave, he’d snuck out in the middle of the night. He’d left an awfully polite note, though.

“Andrew, thank God, I thought you weren’t going to call and I need you more than ever. Do you still have the locket I gave you years ago?”

Dave approached her and gesticulated wildly to his ear, where a branch of leaves was extending. Dr. Cindy mussed his hair and held up a finger. One minute, she mouthed. Dave responded by pulling a worm from his nose.

“Yes, Miss Cindy, I’ve kept everything you ever gave me.”

“That’s beautiful, dear. Are you able to get that open and read the paper inside?”

“It’s wrong to open something that belongs to someone else.”

Dave sprayed another smattering of seeds over the floor, and Dr. Cindy looked down to see the seeds growing tiny mobile root-wrapped feet, puttering about the machinery, growing plumper before her eyes.

“It’s okay, darling, it’s yours now.” She left out the fact that he’d stolen the wallet in the first place. “There’s some important information in there.”

“You must be talking about the override codes.”

“Yes! Yes, that is exactly what I’m talking about. Need to override the machine. There was a bit of an ‘oops’ moment.”

Andrew was quiet. The largest seeds were now the size of apples, but baby-sized Not Dave heads burst through the seed shell, half-mouth, ear-branch, and all.

“Was I an ‘oops’ moment?” he asked quietly. Dr. Cindy’s nails dug into her palms at the ingratiating tone of his voice.

“I love you, Andrew. You know that. What are the codes?”

There was a long silence on the line, cut through by a bunch of tiny apple babies gnawing on god-knows-what.

“I swallowed the locket without reading the codes, Miss Cindy. It just felt right. I’m so very sorry.”

Apr 30, 2006
In and pasta please.

Apr 30, 2006
In :toxx:

Apr 30, 2006
Midnight Snack
766 words

Chloe’s sheets are just like Willow remembers them – soft and crisp, just the right weight, tight and comfy. It’s been two years since Willow’s been here last. Two years since she’s been in Boston. But the smells are the same, the same jasmine detergent, the same note of garlic hanging in the air, the clean hotel room smell in the closets. It’s familiar and satisfying and a little bit sad, but not in a way that curdles her, just a way that reminds her how precious the moment is.

The door to the studio creaks open. “Hey, stranger,” says Chloe, as she takes off her Docs and takes her hair down. Willow stirs, rises up in bed, grins dumbly at Chloe, who’s prettier than ever, her short secretarial hair grown out into cascading curls. “You look good.”

“It’s so loving good to see you,” Willow says, and climbs out of bed, clad in pajamas, and wraps her arms around Chloe. “And seriously, thanks for letting me stay.”

“I said you’re always welcome. I don’t say things I don’t mean. You are always welcome.”

It’s hard for Willow to believe that, even from Chloe. Willow says poo poo she doesn’t mean all the time. She tells moving friends she’ll stay in touch and doesn’t reach out. She offers to help with coworkers’ moves until it’s a day before and then hopes that they’ll forget. She tells her parents she’ll call more often and keeps on calling them once a month. She means those offers in the moment, maybe, but they don’t stick with her. And if she told someone they were always welcome and then they cashed that in after years of silence? She’d probably very likely find a way out of it.

Chloe changes in front of her into some sweatpants and a Harry Styles t-shirt. Willow wants to hug her, but she’s not sure if that’s appropriate, if that’s the dynamic. “I’m hungry,” Chloe says. “Potato pancakes?”

Even though she’s not really supposed to eat much before surgery, Willow nods. She’s not turning down a late-night Chloe potato pancake. She keeps a giant Tupperware container of her homemade mix in the fridge, and it was always perfect, exactly what they wanted, when they’d stayed up way too late talking crossfaded and found themselves up at 1 AM, craving carbs.

Chloe melts some butter in a cast iron and Willow straddles a chair behind her. “I almost stayed at a hotel,” Willow says.

“Yeah? Wanted to take a bath?”

“No, I– they still haven’t fixed it?”

“Still completely covered in chipped paint, yeah.”

Willow smiles, remembering the ritual of plucking paint chips out of the drain after they’d showered together. Somehow it always ended up being Willow’s job. “I just wasn’t sure you still wanted to see me. Like maybe in a ‘let’s get coffee’ way but not in a ‘let me sleep in your bed and also you make me snacks’ sort of way.”

“Aw, Willow,” Chloe says. She plops four pancakes into the butter and they sizzle. The air smells decadent. “You’re one of my dearest people. Really. I don’t say things I don’t mean.”

“You ghosted me,” Willow says. She looked over the messages and like, it was borderline. Like it wasn’t like Willow had asked a question and Chloe had never answered, it was just that Willow had said good night and Chloe never responded.

Chloe put her hand on Willow’s shoulder and ran it up through her hair. “Is this okay?” Chloe asks, and Willow nods. She’s turning her head every few seconds, eyes on the pan, but every time she looks back at Willow there’s this wide-eyed concern. “Um. It didn’t – I guess I do have this thing where, well, I need to be around people to feel close to them. And maybe that’s something I should work on, or–”

She dashes back over to the pan and flips the latkes, and there’s a not unpleasant charred smell coming from the skillet. “It’s good to see you,” Willow says, letting it go. Because it is good to see her, it’s good to see Chloe, even if Willow leaves for surgery tomorrow, doesn’t come back to Boston for another two years.

Willow goes to the fridge, takes out the sour cream and chives, and starts chopping the herbs on the counter next to the stove, next to Chloe. The two of them turn their heads at the same time, and even though the pancakes are starting to burn, they kiss for a long time.

Apr 30, 2006
in and card please

Apr 30, 2006
card: judgement

Sitting in a Tree
977 words

Claire woke up from a dream and knew she had to leave the outpost planet. It felt possible. In the dream she was back home, surrounded by long-gone friends and family, eating a real meal of fresh vegetables and no canned rations, and her mom had sat her down after dinner and said “You’re such a smart person. You can fix anything.”

When she woke she was covered in a netting of vines. Sometimes it made her feel secure, being cradled by the overgrowth, but after the dream it felt oppressive.

good morning

That was Holly, who had been unlucky enough to take trap to the chest when they had scavenged the outpost’s storage, and her soul had been yanked out of her body and fused with the planet’s biomass. Now every drooping tree, every shrub, every bit of plantlife was an extension of Holly.

“Hey, you,” Claire said. “Had such a good dream. Can you let me go?”

A hesitation, but then the vines parted, and Claire hopped off onto the rich earth. She slept in a hammock underneath a billowing tree, its leaves heavy and unnaturally purple, an innovation of Holly’s.

what’s on your mind

The biomass fusion left Holly mute for weeks, and Claire had thought, at first, that Holly was lost entirely, that her body had simply dissolved. But whenever she came near this tree, there were words in her head that weren’t hers – help and i need you and jesus christ i would kill a man for a slice of pizza. At first, Claire thought it was her anxiety – anxiety and guilt. She cared about Holly. Holly was shy but funny, did like twenty goofy voices, and she was always there when Claire just needed some human contact, whether that was a hug, a long conversation, or a gently caress. But it scared her how Holly crumpled and sulked whenever Claire went back to her chambers to read a book or something, and for some dark part of Claire, it had almost been a relief when Holly was hit with the trap.

But when she leaned her back against the purpling willow tree, the words crystalized further – PLEASE SAY SOMETHING and at a hesitant “hello” a branch had swung back and wrapped around her midsection so tightly she was bruised for weeks. A hug. And it had felt welcoming, it had felt nice to feel a little less alone, but simultaneously there was this pressing feeling of responsibility, obligation, burden.

“What’s on my mind?” Claire repeated. She always wondered if being synchronized with a planet’s biomass gave you some kind of mind-reading powers. “Honestly? I want to get out of here.”

The branches shook though there was no wind.

oh i see.


of course you’re leaving

you barely even notice me

it’s so loving lonely already and you’re going to abandon me and it’s going to get even worse

A barrage of assaults from every direction, each one like a hair being plucked from deep within her skull.

“Whoa, slow down,” Claire said, “that hurts.”

Even though she wasn’t touching the tree, the next one came sharp like a sprinter in her brain:


“We’re going to find a way to get your body back. Okay? If we’re hanging around this outpost we’re never going to do that. Ever. You’re going to be a tree and everything else until the end of the world. And,” she said, with a burst of insight, “if I end up getting into an accident, well, you’re just stuck here forever, no one’s ever going to know about you.”

oh what about the distress call people will find us people can help but you’re supposed to be here you’re supposed to stay

“We’ve been trying. For years, darling. And no one’s found us. We’re too far out. I really think I have to fix the ship and bring a specialist back here.”

A couple of moments of blissful silence, and then this awful, incoherent rustling sound in her ears. The noise of a whole planet’s biomass screaming in pain. The branches were shaking again, a rain of twigs and leaves were falling down beneath the tree and Claire pushed at the canopy of drooping branches on the outside. The branches bowed in, scratching at her, ripping her shirt and digging into her tricep. “Holly, this isn’t helping,” she said, ducking a thick limb that would have decapitated her.

She threw herself to the ground and rolled under the branches, even as the stems of weeds snapped and prodded at her, and then she was free of the stormy shade. Outside, the shrubbery whipped at her ankles, and far off in the distance there was a loud clanging sound. Holding her breath, Claire looked over at the wreckage of the ship.

It was wrapped entirely in vines and briars. Claire ran over the earth toward the ship, even though unsure of what she could do. “Please, Holly, you don’t have to–”

A gigantic piece of the ship’s hull warped, and a jagged shard of metal flew out across the horizon. A twisting overgrown green tendril held something aloft, and in a heartstopping moment Claire realized it was the ship’s engine before the vine heaved it miles in another direction.

Metal flew above Claire’s head for what felt like hours as she fell to the ground. “Okay,” she said. “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. Forever.”

Gears were turning in her head somewhere – maybe there was a way to scavenge, to re-create, without Holly noticing, without another eruption of nettles and foliage. But the murmur of planning was pierced by dart after dart: i love you i love you i love you.


Apr 30, 2006
In with Ladies Home Journal

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