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Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
Family Vacation
602 Words

In the midst of one of the most blistering summers on record, you and your family managed to get away for a vacation, even if that only meant a long weekend at the beach. It was nice to be away; a brief respite from the unending burden of spreadsheets. Still, work had become a permanent fixture in your mind, like an unwanted growth you didn’t need to confirm as malignant. You couldn’t help but think about it.

You watch your children from the comfort of your canopied chair. They seemed to find something in the sand. Something that your wife felt they shouldn’t be messing with. You turn your attention to your phone, but see your wife join your kids in your peripheral vision. Your mind, like so much flotsam, drifted back to work. The placidity of the beach had only built upon the anxiety that there was something you missed, something you had left undone.

But you can’t place it. You scroll idly for a few seconds as your children’s jubilant cries are muted by your wife urgently calling you over. You look up from your phone and see your children’s enthusiasm is not shared by their mother who looks pale and a bit distant. You reluctantly extricate yourself from your chair with a sigh, and leisurely stroll towards your family to weigh in with your expertise.

However, what you see them huddled over is the mostly ruined body of a Barbie-sized Fishman wearing what appeared to be armor and weapons fashioned from sea shells. A seahorse of comparable size with gouges and rents across its body lay dead, half submerged in the damp sand. The Fishman made labored breaths that caused its tiny chest to rise and drop raggedly. Your mind spun.

‘What the gently caress is that?’ you think. You and your wife watch speechless as your children scoop up the tiny man and seahorse. They jostled them this way and that, moving their limbs like those of an action figure. Twisting them into new agonized positions. If there was any life left in those creatures, your children’s play had snuffed out the remnants.

The macabre scene is enough to snap you and your wife to your senses and she speaks first reciting the only sensible thing she can think of in that instant, “Put those down! You don’t know where they’ve been!” A timeless parental command, regurgitated even when people just communicated in concerned grunts.

The children don’t listen though. They’ve been going through a rebellious streak and have taken your cavalier demeanor as some sort of override for their mother’s commands (it isn’t; she’s sure to let you know), and you agree wholeheartedly, emphatically, un-loving-deniably. You don’t know where these creatures have been.

“Your mother said put that down,” you say sternly, eyes fixed on the creatures as you struggle to reconcile the implications of their existence.

The children groan as they leave their findings in the sand with you. When they are sequestered away within your tent, hands being scrubbed with sanitizer for snack time, you scoop up the creatures and clutch them tightly as you drift out into the water. You paddle long enough that your wife looks like an insect waving you back to shore when she realizes how far out you’ve gone. You turn your attention to the creatures tangled in your grip and push the anomalies back into the depths of the ocean where they belonged. Satisfied with the removal, or more aptly put, the return, you swim back to your family, eager to let your life return to the mundane and predictable.


Sep 22, 2000

Soiled Meat
1300 words

Dawn was rising, and the gulls were already out to greet it, cutting lazy arcs across the morning sky. Reyna and her brother Farrow clambered down the\rocky bluff that stood watch over the sea.

“You’re always so slow,” said Reyna.

“And yet -” Farrow scrambled across a low outcropping to the side of the path and leapt to the beach, missing his footing and tumbling awkwardly to the sand. “First!”

“Cheater!” laughed Reyna, and kicked sand at him with a sandalled foot.

The two surveyed the view. Even with the morning still new, there were already a few boats dotting the horizon. Reyna shaded her eyes and squinted. “I see Mullyck out there.”

Farrow followed her gaze, sniffed. “S’not him.”

“It is, though. The blue trim on the prow?”

“That’s Mullyck’s boat, but s’not him.” Farrow dusted off his sand-streaked hands on his tunic. “Must be his brother.”

“Now you can’t see that far,” said Reyna, a little hesitantly. Though she was three years older, her brother’s vision had always been better than hers.

“Don’t have to.” Farrow scampered up a slab of weathered sandstone that jutted toothlike from the sand. “Mullyck’s to the war. Left with Terrell’s uncle, day before yesterday.”

“Who told you that?”

“Terrell. Saw him in town, with Mum yesterday. Mullyck didn’t want to go at first, but Terrell’s uncle talked him about.”

Reyna did not reply. It was usually like that, it seemed: someone got the idea in their head to go fight, then coaxed one or two others to join them. It was exasperating, so many grown-ups leaving with little or no warning, their children left to handle their business.

Farrow guessed her thoughts and kicked a little sand back at her. “Come on, now. They’ll be back. Terrell says most of the work now is away from the battlefront. Supply lines and all that. Look at Jenko, right? Came back loaded down with all the riches he could carry!”

Carry. With the one arm, you might mention.”

“Well, don’t have to work now, though. All that gold, he can pay someone to take care of things.” Farrow scanned to one side, then the other. The beach stretched like a pale ribbon to the north, the rocky tidepools twinkling in the first rays of morning. To the south, the beach ended a few hundred yards down before somber gray cliffs.

Farrow grinned at his sister. “Go south? Come on then, let’s.”

Reyna snorted. “Absolutely not.”

“Come on. Why not?”

“You know why. Father’s told us a hundred times.”

“Psshhh. That’s for evenings, when the sun’s low,” argued Farrow, knowing full well their father had made no such exception. He clambered off the rock and started north, making as if to leave without her. Reyna made no move to follow, and Farrow rolled his eyes.

“Come on, then!” Farrow pointed north. “Look, this stretch here is all picked over. Let’s get us a nice fresh shock of teal moss and some mussels. See that pool beyond the first ridge? You know well as I do it’ll be teeming. We’ll go there and no further.”

Reyna wavered. “Father made us promise-”

“That’s when he was here. But he’s not here, is he? Fightiiiiing…in the waaaar…” Farrow sang majestically, turning a slow circle in the sunlight, his arms outstretched. Reyna giggled in spite of herself. It was no laughing matter of course, and she knew Farrow missed their father more than anybody, even Mum. But that was his way, making fun of things to ward off the pain, the uncertainty. She did not begrudge him for coping in whatever way suited him.

“All right,” said Reyna, looking doubtfully back up the path they’d descended. “But only to the ridge, and no further. Or I’ll tell Mum.”

“Oh! You’ll tell… Mum?” Farrow clasped his hands to his chest, stumbled backwards as if stabbed to the belly. “You…you mustn’t! No! It’ll be…the laundry for me. And the chimney! Not the chimney!”

Reyna’s scowl become a laugh as she demurred, jogging to join him. “If she finds out, it’ll be us both in the cauldron,” she warned.

“Well, best get us something good to eat, then. Race you!”

The two sprinted across the shimmering sand, towards the ridge. It felt good to run, with the sun’s warmth seeping into their bones. Farrow got there first, panting. By the time Reyna caught up, he was already clambering down to the water. “There!” he announced triumphantly. “Fresh as you could want. Toss me the pack.”

Reyna did so, then stopped with a frown. “Wait. Look there.”

Farrow followed her gaze. It was a person, lying face down in the sandy shallows, motionless and lolling with the fading tide.. Dull green plates armored the body from head to toe, fused together in mottled stripes. There was no weapon by his side, or anywhere else to be seen.

“Coh…” breathed Farrow. “It’s a Corridian. Washed in.” He carefully traversed the pool to the warrior’s side and bent to flip the body over.

“Farrow!” said Reyne, shocked. “Leave it!”

“Come, he’s dead, isn’t he?” said Farrow, heaving the body over onto its back. And he was. Reyna surveyed the body with mute horror that gave way to fascination. With the body’s front exposed, they could see the massive gash across his chest, scything through the plated armor like tissue. The wound was a yawning fissure that had somehow scorched the flesh it touched to charred gravel. The soldier’s face looked peaceful in death, his too-large eyes closed above the bony ridges that framed his cheeks.

“We’re not eating anything from here,” declared Reyna. “Get back up here, Farrow.”

“Hang on.” Farrow reached into the water and pulled something from the warrior’s forehead. It was a circlet of some kind, made of blue-black metal. “Look at this!”

“Get back up here right now!” Reyna summoned her most commanding tone, one that sounded most like Mum, and to her relief it worked: Farrow turned reluctantly and left the pool to join his sister. The circlet was in his hand, and he held it out for her inspection. The circlet was ornately carved from end to end with thin, spidery sigils of silver. Reyna tried to make them out, but staring at them seemed to make her eyes ache, and she turned her gaze to her brother, who returned her gaze evenly.

“Scavenged it,” he declared “Like Father always said. The sea gives for us to take.”

“Not from him,” Reyna admonished flatly. “Stealing from the dead is stealing, not scavenging.”

“He doesn’t need it. Spoils of war. All we know, he’s the one who killed Bear. Or Festyk. Or all of them. Deepwater scum.” Reyna had no answer to that; it might well be true.

Farrow lifted the circlet and, before Reyna could protest, set it on his brow. He staggered as he did so, and Reyna gasped as the circlet settled into place, tightening against her brother’s forehead. “Ha!” he inhaled sharply, and for a moment Reyna thought she spied movement, gone before she could register: a flicker of sinewy tendrils of mist, coiling around his brow like tentacles before dissipating as quickly as they'd arrived.

“I am Torshuu the Destroyer,” Farrow intoned in a low voice. His eyes squeezed shut.

Reyna put a hand to her mouth, suddenly terrified. “What-”

“Young. And malleable.” Farrow muttered. “Eager.”

Reyna took a step back. Farrow’s eyes opened suddenly, and he grinned. “You heard me! I’m Torsho the Destroyer!”

Reyna smiled hesitantly. “You’re no such thing.”

Farrow said nothing, swaying slightly. Not her, he thought. Patience. There will be blood to spare and more, soon enough. “Race you back?” he offered.

Reyna glared at him and turned to run. Torshuu followed, testing his limbs, savoring rebirth, drinking strength, ready for war.

Sep 22, 2000

Soiled Meat

rivetz posted:

In with a real dumb idea based on an even dumber dream I just had
Author's note that the story above was not that idea (and not as good either): Billionaire douchebag heads to his private beach one morning to find an scantily-clad young woman washed ashore, covered in seaweed, impossibly beautiful, weak with hunger, and strangely mute. He brings her back to his luxury beach house, while some distance offshore a couple sketchy dudes watch with long-range binoculars chuckling. Turns out she's an accomplished burglar; this is her fourth job, and none of the other suckers have said poo poo to the cops because they'd rather take the L than admit they genuinely believed they were saving a loving mermaid

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Buried Treasure (673 words)

It was a green glass bottle that had washed ashore. There was something inside it. The boys gathered round.

“Looks like it’s a-

Message in a boooottle,” Roy sang. Steve laughed.

“Shut the gently caress up.” Kyle snatched it from me. He held it to the sun and examined its contents. A single piece of paper had been rolled, tucked inside. It tumbled, slightly open, like a scroll, as he turned it. “Looks like a note. I can see someone’s writing.”

“Well?” I said, “Pop it open.”


Steve accepted the bottle. The neck had been corked. Securing the bottle between his thighs, he twisted and pulled until the cork popped free. The three of us applauded. “Easy,” he said. He handed it to me.

I tipped the bottle upside down, using my finger to fish out the paper. Roy had motioned for the cork and Steve tossed it to him. Roy tossed it to himself as I straightened out the paper.

“Buried treasure?” he asked with a small, calloused grin.

“Feels like a receipt.”

“There’s handwriting,” Kyle insisted.

It was a receipt. Alcohol, cigarettes. Someone had scrawled, “Thanks for picking up our trash.” Roy chuckled as I read it. Kyle looked disappointed. “So it’s junk,” said Steve. “Toss it back,” said Roy.

“Yeah,” I said, looking for a trash can.

“Thought we had something there,” Kyle sighed, arms folded.

A fresh wave rolled in, submerging our feet. We’d sunk into the sand where the beach met the sea. We’d walked a ways away from the crowds, the girls. I’d called them over here when I saw something glinting

“We do,” said Roy. “Someone’s poo poo.” Steve laughed. Roy tossed me the cork. “Let’s head back.” He gestured with a nod.

The others quickly scattered. I stood there with the bottle. Only Kyle looked back. “Come on.” He waved me over. I followed after, still looking for the trash. I turned the bottle, the receipt back inside. “Thought we had something there.” So did I. Disappointing. I glanced down at the bottle, somehow emptier than before. It could’ve been anything, but turned out it wasn’t. Our fleeting curiosity was rewarded with a chore.

Seeing a trash can, I went to drop it in, when I remembered something. A spark of inspiration. I fished out the receipt. That had always been garbage. The bottle had its uses. I placed it with my things.

A trip to the beach was usually fun, but returning home wasn’t. “No sand in the house.” Mom made me circle around to the backyard where dad hosed me off. The water was always freezing. But a quick shower later and a change of clothes I was back in my room. I studied the bottle. I’d cleaned it also, inside and out. You could fill it with anything. I grabbed a notebook.

“Buried treasure?” Roy had asked with an air of smug dismissal, as though he wasn’t the first of us to loot the monsters when we played D&D. I flipped through pages of drawings and notes till I found the map I’d been drawing for our game. I grabbed another notebook. I had a lot of notebooks. I didn’t use a lot of notebooks, I just had them, just in case. Putting them side by side, I grabbed a number two pencil, and began to make a copy, deliberately incomplete.

“You see something,” I said, peering furtively over my screen. “A glint down in the water.”

“I’ll get it,” said Roy. His character dove in.

“You see a coral-encrusted skeleton, long abandoned, clutching a bottle. The bottle casts an emerald sheen. It’s been stoppered with wax. There’s something inside.”

Kyle’s wizard and Steve’s paladin looked at each other. Roy’s rogue resurfaced. “What’s in it?” he asked. I took the green bottle out of my bag. “You tell me,” I said as I placed it on the table.


“Oh DUDE.”

“Pfft ha ha ha nice.”

Steve popped it open once again. “Buried treasure?” It was.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy
Subs closed

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy
:siren: week 583 RESULTS :siren:

things happened on the shore! and i liked it. i felt it was a pretty strong week. nice.

cephas and ouzo maki get HMs

cut of your jib takes the win.

crits in a moment

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy
Great prose here, captures the amazement/disgust of this strange creature, the awe switching to fear, the mob mentality of it, a very well captured scene with vivid descriptions, and exactly what I was hoping for from a ‘thing washed ashore’ story. Really liked this one. The only feedback i have is I wish there would have been something to trigger the first stone throw, some action by the creature that was misinterpreted maybe, or someone shouting something and everyone goes along. I think that reason, and its thoughtlessness, could make the shift more impactful. Great one, one of the tops for this week.

Picking my teeth:
Another wild one from jib, and i love it. A guy walks around the world to avoid banging the wrong person, then ends up doing it anyway. Your writing style as always seems so unafraid to do whatever, like walking into a wilderness of words, and i enjoy it a lot. So many great lines in this one, but walking into the ocean was like walking into smooth jazz.. Come on, who writes like that. Great. My only feedback is the end was a bit of a shrug, since the whole story was about him walking into the ocean, him doing it again in the end didn’t feel like it added much.

Exciting action scene of a couple outrunning a tsunami, really tight and thrilling writing here, pulled me along like a riptide, fun to read. And i notice you took the time to make me care about the characters here, a couple just starting to fall in love, it’s just a few lines but its enough to make me feel connected to them, so i have something to care about when poo poo goes down. Great description of the wall of water, the ‘chase’ the adrenaline of it- a good read.

Traveling companion:
A romance by the sea, i loved the descriptions of her art, the drawing as the tide came up, it seems to reflect some aspect of life in general. The characters were well drawn, even the momentary side characters were clear in my mind. High quality writing here, memorable scenes. Enjoyed it

draggin’ on and on:
A weird thing washes ashore that no one can interact with until one girl can. I like the premise behind this, the dragon sensing the world full of distractions and greed and momentary feelings, all without a care or interest in it as a living being, this is quite identifiable. but the writing felt somewhat distant to me. At times this seemed more like a description of a story than a story itself. I wanted to be more in the moment with the girl and/or the dragon, instead of floating far above like this. I expect you were going for a sort of fairy tale vibe, but i think that style did you a disservice. An enjoyable read regardless.

Family vacation:
Your children find some unexpected things on the shore. I think the second person works here, in a very short story it can be a short cut to empathy, and i think you pulled that aspect of it off. I love that this impossible and strange happening is all boiled down to some parents not wanting their children to touch whatever that impossible thing is. Made me smile a lot.

The end of this one was well described and intriguing, but there was a lot of leadup to get there. And that lead up did not let me know at all what kind of world the story was taking place in. I think if some of that space was used to let me know that the war was with corridians, who were some kind of sea people, and that they were known to have magic jewelry (which could be a motivation for the kids to steal it) this ending would feel less like it came out of nowhere. Some nice imagery here though, i enjoyed it.

Buried treasure:
Some kids find a ‘message in a bottle’ that turns out just to be some rear end in a top hat’s trash. I liked the ‘message’ (hehe) behind this one, a pretty feelgood ending, but overall I felt that the writing was a bit thin and rushed. Some more buildup to the opening of the bottle could have added even more disappointment, and if you dont clue the reader in on what he is doing with the bottle before showing it to us in the dnd game, that could also add some punch. I quite liked the idea behind this one though.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 584 Prompt - Critters and Critters

Let's start off spooky season with a round about the unexplained. Invent a cryptid or write a tale about bigfoot hunters or whatever the hell that thing is in the picture. It's important that the creatures (or aliens, or Atlanteans or whatevs) be real, and it's not MKUltra or anything with a mundane if insane explanation. I watched a thing where a guy got caught in the slipstream of a UFO and bounced through time, so that kind of story is cool too.

I used to thank all the critters every week for putting in the effort, and I forgot to verbalize that in thread the last couple rounds. So thank you everyone who crits any story. I try to read all of them, even when I am on writing hiatus. So if the ghosts and goblins world isn't to your taste, you can also write about a critic of some sort. Movies, TV, books, art, plays, restaurants--or something that's outside the normal media realm, that could be neat. For this though, I expect that an rear end in a top hat critic will have a comeuppance, or be so acerbically dry that it's basically a standup routine.

Deadline: October 15, 11:59PM Eastern Time US

Here's the calculator to the best of my meager ability. But don't trust my work, double check,

There is no sign up deadline, just the submission deadline. If you post in time, you're in. If you want an incentive, anyone who signs up by Friday 11:59PM ET gets an extra 200 words.

Word limit: 1500
1700 if you sign up early.

I tend to give long and detailed crits, so if you are considering entry and are new, I treat stories like alpha reads. You'll get honest feedback. I have the soul of a poet but not the skill, so if you want to see how something you release into the wild will be taken in by the masses, this is a good week to do it.


Idle Amalgam

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 00:58 on Oct 13, 2023

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Crits for Week #583

Ouzo Maki - Regicide:

I liked this considerably less than the head judge did. The word, here, is 'overwritten'. Just a constant barrage of deep purple prose unrelenting enough to bury the interesting imagery. I often say that semicolons have next to no good use in narrative prose and these kinds of sentences are why. Also, the narrator, other than those stylistic choices, is almost a nonentity in the story, doesn't do much but witness. 

The Cut of Your Jib - Picking my teeth:

Solid opening. The second paragraph gets a bit awkward ('my good friend Bill's wife Sharon' is a weird way to order those phrases.) But overall a strong contrast against the previous. When you use words you're making each one count. 

beep-beep car is go - Starfall:

So, if I'm talking prose here in these crits this week, this one isn't really doing enough. The first suggestion here is to add specificity to your generic words. Vegetation could be seaweed and even better, a specific kind. More could be done than just a cigarette, and we get that kind of thing later in the story, that and with the jeep. But the beginning could use more punch. 

Cephas - Traveling Companion:

Prose. We have a distinctive voice here established in the first few paragraphs. Simple sentences, not quite Hemmingway simple but close. It feels like a deliberate choice, but I'm not sure it's the right one, not sure mixing in a few fragments or complex sentences wouldn't improve this. I see a few well placed fragments later, and they work out okay.

flerp - draggin’ on and on:

This one is pretty solid, both prose and story wise, the same basic story as Ouzo's but with a radically different mood and a bit of magic realism at the end.

Idle Amalgam - Family Vacation:

Second person is a definite choice. Shifts tense after paragraph one, too. Average prose here, nothing sticking out positively or negatively. The story is a bit light, a bit of dream logic without the connections or symbology usually seen in that kind of story.

rivetz - SPOILS:

A typo in the opening paragraph. So, this story is a lot more dialog based than the others, which brings different considerations. And the dialog mostly works, mostly comes across as real. My one issue here is how long it takes to resolve the setting, to let us know this is some fantastic world and not historical.

Bad Seafood - Buried Treasure:

More dialog,functional but not great. The voices of the characters meld together, which is a risk using three similar kids in a piece this short. A cute enough idea, though.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Crits for Week #573

Fat Jesus - Larry and Mae's Boys of Steel:

Probably going to fall in the low middle area.  Opening with a long quote with a punchline isn't great, especially when it doesn't particularly pay off later. The body is fairly competent prose, almost making the loathsome protagonists compelling, but the plot and worldbuilding ultimately fall flat; there's probably enough idea here for a story half the length.

beep-beep car is go - The Bedrock Dispatch.:

Okay, sure, it does have things to say at least, points that have been raised before in other Flintstones parody and commentary but that are done competently in that context, but at the end of the day fanfic is fanfic. It is fairly good at it, at least: the characters are as much like the source as they can be, considering the tonal shift to the point of the piece.

Yoruichi - The pony was a lie:

A tough rule, but you managed it. A cute little story within those bounds. Middle.

LurchinTard - FEAR AND BARKING ON I-95:

Solid opening, character and situation and stakes established.  The last bit is a bit confusing, a .45 sized plate? What does that even? A really good start but it goes nowhere, no real opposition. Middle.

Albatrossy_Rodent - Babble:

This is a weird one. Powerful, though. I begin to suspect the presence of metaphor here. The ending is abrupt but it sort of works. High.

derp - agonway

This may be uncritable. The nonsense is tantalizingly patterned but impenetrable, no Joyce's phonetic puns, a few tantalizing anagrams. It gives the feeling that there might be a key, just out of reach, which is I guess the point. A fish.

The man called M - Hoist the Main Clothes!:

The opening is sort or filler. Dropped letter in second paragraph. 'One of the lads named Gary' implies multiple Gary's, should recast If there aren't. Anyway, a fine if slight little story that meets the brief. Middle, most improved.

Paladinus - Pale Imitation:

The opening is a bit slow. This is a weird one, from the lack of consideration that money has serial numbers to the abrupt conclusion. There might be a decent story given more room to breathe and perhaps a strong viewpoint? Sort of lower middle.

Lord Zedd-Repulsa - Burnout:

The opening is fairly evocative but a bit awkward. 'UNM' requires just a bit more thought to parse than one should want, and after that 'SUB' does the same. Anyhow, it's an interesting piece of writing but it doesn't really go anywhere, doesn't reach a conclusion. There are also a lot of little considerations that don't seem to be taken throughout; I was wondering about ta/ra duties, fire alarms and neighbors, squatters, etc. Middlish.

The Cut of Your Jib - Sun Salutations at Dusk:

Nice opening. Takes an interesting swerve and sets things up well. Powerful. The second section too. Definitely leaves the reader wanting more, though, mostly in the good way. High.

Doctor Zero - Eartha and the Kitts:

Opener is a run-on sentence. But the story starts strong anyway. Overall it's fun. I don't know of it completely justified its length in prose, but it might work well as a script or screenplay. Middle-high

QuoProQuid - 26 Seconds in Dallas:

Okay, I see what we're doing here. And this is solid, just a good work of prose, telling the story without using the name. High group.

Slightly Lions - Surf and Stones:

Okay opening. Not sure if cyclopean is quite right here. Competent, I'd say. There's a bit of menace in the myth your using that sort of lingers unresolved. Not sure if the dialog fits for a normal 12 year old; the narration certainly doesn't. Middle-high.

Crain - A Change of Perspective.:

I'm not sure I really like what the voice is doing all that much. Sometimes feels like it's vamping more than anything else. But the story works, generally. The ending makes sense but wasn't completely predictable,  although I think that within the rules someone probably should have managed to communicate after the metamorphosis...Middle high

Fumblemouse - Broken Promises:

Opening is a bit confusing; not sure if a pregnant gown is an idiom I'm unfamiliar with or just a weird thing. Okay, I see what was done there, but that's another confusing line revealing it, 'is of the cat'. Is the name of the cat? Is of the cat persuasion? Anyhow, I like this one. Solid prose, aware and meta-aware. The ending is a bit abrupt, though. High.

Tars Tarkas - Unchee:

The opening is functional, I guess, if a bit on tropey side. But this doesn't do much. The Beatrice bit is particularly bad, self aware bad dialog is still bad and what she understands shifts in the middle. Low.

Chairchucker - Little <strike>Dune </strike> <strike>Moon</strike> Mars Buggy :

Decent opening. Overall, this is one of those sort of cute stories you tend to do. Not a lot to distinguish the characters apart from their sides, even the alien one, but breezy prose that manages to carry the reader through it without much substance. Middle. 

Dicere - The War for Hearts and Minds:

Note: the archive has the flash wrong.  Still being a little cute with it. Bold. And we're doing Quantum Leap here I see. Another one that I liked quite a bit, high or middle high.

Fuschia tude - Blood and Ashes:

Solid opening, there's an interesting tension already. Not sure where it's going, a narration putting visual cues first with a blind pov.

I'm not sure what's going on with the italics. Okay. This is well executed generally, but as longer story it's odd that it's missing a crucial bit. Rosa is supposedly motivated by revenge, but we get no real hints of how she was wronged, and that really weakens it all I think. Middle high.

Bad Seafood - See You Later, Alligator:

I feel like making sense of this is going to be futile. How does a crocodile tie chains? Does a barrel role make sense as a motorcycle move? But in the end this is just a set piece, an image out of an eighties trapper keeper turned to prose. Middle.

sebmojo - Intestacy:

The opening line is packed tightly, interesting. Not sure about the 'the' before Palm Sunday. Hm. This is, well, not good. It's pretending to be good, there are at least characters in it reasonably drawn, but the prose just doesn't work, especially untethered to any point of view. And seems to be doing the flash rule backwards. Middle low.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
I'm in

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy

Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

Cut of your derp Brawl

I would like to see some parody, please. If you want, I'll give you a popular short story to parody. What "parody" means is up to you.

No word limit, but don't get cute with that, I'll be mad if you make it hyperbolically long as a bit.

Due two Wednesdays from now

Thrag Versus the Goblin Horde

Thrag Ogretooth hefted his huge, bloody axe over his wide and muscular shoulders and flexed his rockhard abs. “There, up ahead, the goblin horde!” he said, pointing a dramatic finger.

Beside him, Alrguth Gruthengar the Lady Warrior, and Shalamara Malarara the Elfin Arrow Guy, stood on the cliff’s edge with their hair blowing cinematically in the dire wind.

Alrguth put a very strong but also slender and sexy hand to her brow to block the fiery sunlight that lit the cavernous ravine below them. There she saw a million goblins scurrying in their ratlike ways. “Thrag! No! What have you done!”

“I’ve led us to the goblin horde, just like we planned, what are you complaining about, woman!”

Shalamara, who had extra tall elfin ears which were, by way of their tallness, more sensitive to such pronunciations, gasped. “Thrag! No! What have you done!”

“Like I said, the goblin horde-”

“But that’s exactly it, Thrag!” Alrguth said in her sultry but also very strong voice. “You were supposed to take us to the goblin hoard while the goblin horde was away looting and pillaging more gold to bring back to their hoard! But instead you’ve led us right into the deadly clutches of the goblin horde!”

“Madness!” shouted Thrag and he slammed his axe into the ground producing a jagged crack that separated him symbolically from his compatriots. “Why would we go to the goblin hoard when there’s no goblins there!”

“For the gold!” shouted Alrguth. “We could have taken all the gold without a drop of blood spilt!”

“And what,” asked Thrag philosophically, “would be the point of that?” He held a sculpted and melancholic hand to his rugged chin. “For is it not the joy of one's life to spill and to be splashed in the blood of one’s enemies? To cut them down like wheat? What is life without blood?” Thrag began pacing along the crack and gesturing like a poet conducting a play. “Money is only a means to sharpen the blade and strengthen the armor. Would you take that hoard and lay upon it like a bed, and sleep for the rest of your life? No! Life is for killing! Life is for fighting and imposing will and crushing bones and spilling blood! What is life without blood, tell me that, Alrguth!”

Alrguth’s beautiful but also strong jaw hung open in awe, then with a look of determination she stepped across the crack to stand at Thrag’s side. “You’re right, Thrag! We were born for blood! I should never have sought to avoid it.”

“I, too, will stand by your side!” said Shalamara, and as he stepped across the symbolic crack an emotional swell of stringed instruments welled up around them.

“Now, to battle!” shouted Thrag, and he chopped at the ground with his axe until the edge of the cliff broke off and they, standing upon the rent earth, slid down the side of the cliff and crashed amongst the goblin horde, landing in a cacophony of shattering rocks and splattering heads, like an avalanche of rocks falling onto a million eggs, and they leapt from the rocks swinging their weapons (except for Shalamara, who fired his arrows, which fell like deadly rain onto the enemy) and they waded through a roaring river of blood pouring constantly from the slit bellies and cut throats of goblins that fell around them like wheat, or perhaps like something else which falls easily, like a dried and withered grass cut by a razorsharp blade, but a special kind of grass that spurts blood even when it is dried and withered!

And Thrag swung his axe and Alrguth her sword (also Shalamara was there shooting arrows) as they cut through the tide of goblins, heads and limbs flying up like grasshoppers as one wades through grass, and blood spurting like celebratory fountains along their path! The three of them were slick to the skin with blood and viscera, their hair dripping with red wetness. Soon they reached the center of the horde, and there laying prone and plump like a giant grub was the Goblin Queen, and Alrguth hefted her shining and dripping with blood sword to cut the disgusting creature asunder, but Thrag raised his chiseled and also blood dripping hand.

“Stop!” Thrag’s richly masculine voice thundered out and rolled like a wave over the valley, and for a moment all the goblins froze in place despite not knowing the language of man.

Alrguth’s blade, which was very slender and beautiful but also extremely sharp, hovered, ready to strike. “But why?”

“Would you kill the duck that laid the diamond egg?” Thrag gestured at the Goblin Queen. “This monstrous creature produces, the same as a queen termite in her disgusting hive, a slimy newborn goblin every hour. Would you stem that ceaseless flow of blood? Ah the joy of a massacre! Ah, life! But the greed you display would end it all for us! Where would we be in a week, a year, when all the goblins have rotted to dust and memory? No, we must spare the queen, much as the hunter spares the doe, so that more goblins spring forth for us!”

And just as if it was all planned, at that moment a new goblin child fell in a gelatinous mess at the feet of the bloated queen and crawled away leaving a trail like a slug, off to its burrow where it would grow, and strengthen, and live to be cut down by a warrior’s blade (or arrow) some day. Thrag and Alrguth and Shalamara all nodded sagely at the beautiful cycle of nature.

And the seasons turned and life went on and goblins were born and fell to the blade and the soil soaked up their blood and birthed forth the plants and the trees, until one night in the inn after having guzzled a dozen tankards of ale Thrag and Alrguth tumbled into the same bed in each others’ arms, and the unthinkable happened, the impossible for a bloodlusting barbarian couple: a pregnancy!

And as Alrguth’s belly grew, Thrag knew he must keep the child from harm, and to do that he must keep Alrguth from harm, and to do that he must keep himself from harm, and to do that he must stay home on their small farm and learn a new kind of life. And the child was born, a girl, who they called Wrotinfndirsy, and little Dirsy grew to be strong like her parents and learned to wield a swax (a special sword axe invented by her parents) and became adept at lopping off the head of any creature she encountered, and by the age of nine had already spilled gallons of blood.

And as Thrag watched this little life grow he knew it was the end for him. His strength waned and his muscles withered and his skin sagged, and like a softening fruit all his strength was draining out, as if through a tube that led into his daughter, filling her up.

And soon little Dirsy was little no more, she was a woman, muscular but also beautiful, and she flew through the goblin horde like a scythe through wheat while Thrag could only watch, and wish, and dream of the old days when he bathed in blood, when he had endless hours of slaughter and unrelenting bloodlust, when he had nothing else to do but kill. But now, the only spark in his life was the pale vicarious thrill of watching his daughter stride out the door into the rising sun, her swax hefted over her chiseled but also smooth and womanly shoulders.

And one night as he and Alrguth rocked in their chairs on the porch of their small farmhouse, gazing blearily and melancholyly at the setting sun, he turned to his woman and said. “Why the hell did we go and have a kid?”

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Albatrossy_Rodent posted:

Cut of your derp Brawl

I would like to see some parody, please. If you want, I'll give you a popular short story to parody. What "parody" means is up to you.

No word limit, but don't get cute with that, I'll be mad if you make it hyperbolically long as a bit.

Due two Wednesdays from now

Welcome to my blog! I hope you'll find a little magic and inspiration in your life just like I have!


My Favorite Holiday Recipe
October 11, 2023

Homemade hot chocolate is fast and easy! Here are the ingredients:

1 Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Caffe Latte K-cup Pod
Reddi-Wip® whipped dairy product

Step One

It was a blustery day, but the spices of fall lingered in the air, and I brought whiffs of cinnamon and nutmeg and all that pumpkin-y goodness (bless you, Starbucks®) into the house with me. I always liked how my North Face® Nuptse Retro puffer jacket smelled cold somehow when you first came in from the suburban wilds. Mark and his partner James sat on the Ashley® Kestrel chaise sofa. James held my younger brother’s hand tenderly. Though the tips of his fingers were partially down in the crack between the cushions, the glint of his titanium and onyx wedding band danced in the light. The first thing I said to James when I found out they were engaged was, “Send him to Jared®!” and that’s some of the best advice I’ve ever given.

My father entered from the hallway, and I couldn’t believe how well the Glidden® 2-in-1 interior semigloss paint held up over the years in such a high traffic area. I noticed his eyes were a bit red, and though a little Visine would clear that right up, I didn’t mention it. I handed him a Kleenex® facial tissue. He said, “We need to say goodbye to your mother. It’s time.” Turn on your Keurig® K-Cafe Single Serving Coffee Maker with optional cappuccino attachment and let it heat up.

Step Two

I remember the days when Mom would dance around the stations of her kitchen, the first Kitchen-Aid® 3-quart stand mixer on the block churning away on some sweet treat while Mark and I played under the table. She was so proud of that mixer. We had a hodgepodge of toys, She-Ra and Transformers®, and My Little Ponies™ and Thundercats. Rainbow Bright and Strawberry Shortcake. The under the table adventure was most often a perilous attempt at scaling Mount Chair. Base Camp was Mark’s Trapper Keeper®, and every attempt was commemorated with a new Lisa Frank® sticker I would place in orderly rows on the back.

On this occasion, the blue Lego® Space Squad Minifigure toppled from the top of the mountain and slid across the linoleum into the baseboard heater. Mark sniffled. He never really outburst cried, but pouted about something all the time. Mom poured the contents into a Wilson 9x11 baking pan then kneeled and peered under the table. Mark pointed to the baseboard, with his other hand in a loose cup over his nose. I said, “The Lego® Minifigure went into the heater, Mom!”

“Well,” she replied, and even at a young age, I could tell her voice was full of motherly wisdom, “Let’s fish him out.” She poked around with an Oneida® kitchen spoon from her complete Oneida® set and rummaged the Minifigure from the heater. “Oh Mark, I’m afraid your Lego® Minifigure isn’t going to make it.”

The Minifigure was partially melted, torso and head fused together, and legs warped into an impossible split. Though we often had casualties on the mountain ascents, frequently Bumblebee or another small Transformer®, this was the day Mom really had to talk to us about death. Place the Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Caffe Latte K-cup Pod in the Keurig® and close it up.

Step Three

In the small backyard, we held a service for the Lego® Space Squad Minifigure. Mark and I decorated a Keds® Champion Classic shoebox with Crayola® Washable Markers and drew Mount Chair, and while we always imagined Mount Chair as a wintery Everest-like climb, from now on, Mount Chair would be a raging volcano.

Mom led the service: “We say goodby to—” “Gary.” “Gary, on this solemn occasion. Gone from this world, but not from our hearts.” Mark lowered the Keds® Champion Classic shoebox in to the hole Dad dug with his Tru Temper® hardwood handle shovel. We each put a handful of dirt into the hole and Dad finished burying it.

I had a slight pang of regret because I had used the unicorn from my sheet of Lisa Frank® Puffy Stickers on the shoebox and I wanted to look at it some more, but when we went inside, the Original Rice Krispies® Treat Squares were cooled enough and those always cheered us right up. As Mom cut and served them I saw Mark turn to the window and mouth the word “goodbye.” But then the Original Rice Krispies® Treat Squares and Swiss Miss hot cocoa were served and we each got a pat on the head from Mom, and that was the circle of life. Place your mug and choose the Keurig® setting appropriate for your desired mug size then push the button.

Step Four

Mark and James rose from the Ashley® Larkstone 2-Piece Sectional and crowded around me and Dad. On Mark I detected a hint of Sauvage, the new exciting scent by Christian Dior®. Dad, of course, smelled of Old Spice® Classic Cologne. Mom was set up in the master bedroom, a place that was forbidden in our childhood, so it felt a bit strange to be in there now. I was skeptical about the Ghostbed® Palliative Care Adjustable Base with auto-heat settings but Mom said she was very comfortable and the four USB ports were extremely convenient.

I’m sure all you Mommies will understand that the next part is private, but suffice it to say we said our goodbyes and Mom passed on to a better place. Mark finally let out a big outburst of tears, and Dad hugged him. I joined the group hug, and even in loss, the family bond is magical.

Before Mom passed, she did say, “Never forget to take care of each other. The family bond is magical.” I’ll never forget those words. We chose Dignity Funeral Home Services, and they were polite and respectful. Generously spray a dollop of Reddi-Wip® on your Starbucks® Pumpkin Spice Caffe Latte and enjoy. For a fun twist, try to make a design like a pumpkin or a leaf for fall!


A Mother’s Wisdom: The Family Bond is Magical available in paperback now! Inspirational magnets and, of course, stickers too! Use promo code “momsaremagical” for 20% off anything in my webstore!



Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Derp Jib parody brawl results

Both of these stories missed some potential. Derp could've gone more specific and sharp-edged, Jib could've gone darker and stranger. As is I had a hard time deciding and I might've gone another way in a different mood.


The joke about Strong Female Characters also being uniformly super hot definitely lands.

I think I'm the only person who would give this criticism, but I think you could have gone further with the horde/hoard Who's On First routine. Maybe add some prostitutes to the mix, who get whored? Just spitballing.

Think you overextended yourself with the pregnancy/childhood/aging stuff, this works much better when contained to the silly, farcical battle. Additionally, I couldn't really put my finger on what was being parodied much of the time. All of fantasy? A little bit of extra specificity could've helped.


I was down from the beginning, I love to see a formula that deserves to mocked get mocked.

The constant product placements got old pretty quick. Think you could have taken two thirds of these out and I still would've gotten the joke. Additionally, move the recipe itself to the end. This is more true to the actual recipe blog format–the reason we find these annoying in the first place is because we have to scroll past the bullshit to get to the recipe–and it would be a great punchline to see that all of this hullabaloo was about just making Keurig coffee. I think I also would've liked to see a stranger story going on in the overdone personal anecdotes. There are hints of this–is there something going on with the kids not being allowed in the master bedroom?--but it didn't go far enough imo.

Loved "0 comments." Seriously, how is everyone on the internet all the time yet no one is reading or talking about what gets put there?

I'm gonna give Jib the win here. It's very, very close, but ultimately I feel like Jib's story has more to say about recipe blogs than derp's does about fantasy.

Linecrits by request. They won't be fast.

Dec 15, 2006

b l o o p


Jun 19, 2023

Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Clown crits

Heart by Jib

The opening paragraph is uniquely bad. Hard to parse, a downright garden labyrinth. I reread it three or four times trying to figure out what was being said at a basic level and gave up and it didn't matter because it wasn't important anyways.

The rest of this doesn't get much better. An overwrought attempt at melancholy and nostalgia where nothing happens that's interesting enough to justify it. I got bored. Sorry.

Buttons Comes Home by Albatrossy_Rodent

A sublime work of utter genius, as all your stories are. More proof that you are indeed Thunderdome's greatest writer, and perhaps the world's best person. Bravo.

Jester's Gambit by rivetz

I liked where I thought this was going more than where it went. We get a villain hyped up for us: the evil visier who's oppressing the people and is secretly some kind of bug monster. That guy's obvious our villain right? But no, he dies offscreen and then the villains are just some barbarian randos that our hero *easily* dispatches with God powers he suddenly has.

Keep most of this, play up the court intrigue with Rodikh, make him the villain (since he's the guy whose evil deeds are actually explained) and have the hero save the day through cunning rather than inexplicably becoming god.

The Pandergast Job by Slightly Lions

I appreciate how hard this goes. You don't drop the cartoon 30s gangster accent, and that's a good choice. Subtlety is for cowards. I normally hate "the name's [protagonist's name] and *here's my deal*" but this whole thing is such a cartoon already that it works.

The opening makes it seem like the story's going to be about Penny Pandergast and it extremely isn't. I think your musings on Penny's name are funny, but shouldn't come that close to the start of the story if Penny is ultimately a non-character. Still this is kinda fun, meeting the expectations of Hero Clown Week.

Carnivore House by Antivehicular

Good job establishing a wild scenario and expecting your audience to keep up. She moonlights as a clown but her day job is at the Poison Ivy-rear end mad scientist lab feeding Audrey II, yep, that's what's happening, roll with it.

I think you have gone more ambitious? This is just a simple day-in-the-life story but i'd like to see some deeper world building, more info about why they were growing these murderplants in the first place. But nice.

Coal Dust and Greasepaint by Thranguy

More fiction should be about old-timey union Pinkerton battles, shouldn't it? A historical setting that's as aesthetically cool as old west or pirates for sure.

Well-constructed and easy to read. Keeps a distinctive voice throughout, and Ez stays relatable throughout. Like the degree to which his clownishness is integrated with his coalminerness.

Clown Rules by Hawklad

There's some great worldbuilding here, but why did you go and write the boring part of this story? The story about how our heroes drove to the place where their epic adventure would start? No, I want the rad adventure, please. Start the story with the clown child as a fugitive with a ragtag gang. Just feels like a waste of potential for a cool idea.

Jun 19, 2023
Raven Mocker, Shadow Walker
790 Words

Laughter filled the air. Jacob grinned at his best friend sitting across from him at the picnic table. He picked at the food on his plate while he listened to the others, chitchatting idly. The camping excursion they were on to cap the summer had been great so far. It had been an awesome way to catch up with friends before everyone was back at their respective colleges across the country. It was dinnertime on day three of the weeklong trip, and everyone had settled into their rhythms.

Jacob and Laney had firewood duty since no one else seemed to be able to build a fire worth a drat. After finishing their meal, the BFFs headed out into the woods to gather more kindling before it got dark.

“Let’s head towards the river this time. We haven’t grabbed much down that way yet,” Laney suggested as they left the campsite. Jacob nodded his approval as they headed out.

The sounds of their friends faded in the distance, subtly drowned out by the sounds of flowing water as they neared the banks. They’d get kindling at some point, but the quiet was really what they were hoping for.

“Matt and Ash never stop talking. It’s nice to not have the incessant drone for a little while,” Jacob smiled, sitting down on a boulder overlooking the water.

Laney joined him. “Seriously. Sometimes I wonder if they ever stop to breathe,” she chuckled.

The pair sat for a few minutes, enjoying the quiet. Jacob stood, dusting himself off. “Alright, we’d better get to it. You know the jokes will start if we’re out here alone for too long.”

“Ugh, the heteros,” Laney chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Do they even know what queer means?”

The two worked on gathering wood as they continued to joke back and forth with each other. The sun was starting to go down. So, they made their way back to camp to make sure the fire was set up for the night.

Laney set to work, arranging branches. Jacob patted down pants and swore to himself. “Hey, I’ll be right back. I think my pocketknife fell at some point,” he grumbled. He rolled his eyes at a dirty joke lobbed his way about rolling around in the woods and headed back towards the river.

Although there was still plenty of light at the campsite, the setting sun was more noticeable in the forest. The light was fading quickly out here. He searched around the boulder by the light of his phone, sifting through leaf litter to find his knife.

A shadow detached itself from a nearby tree and raced across to another. The movement was odd; it seemed to speed then halt, like watching someone with a strobe light pulsing on them.

Jacob barely caught the flicker from the corner of his eye. “Lane, that you?”

“Hey!” The voice sounded like Laney’s, but just a little off.

He stood and looked towards the trees. “Laney?”

“Hey!” The call again, farther away this time.

Shining his light towards the voice, Jacob started moving towards it. “L, did you find it?”

It wasn’t until the third “Hey!” that he registered the voice sounding not quite right. It almost sounded like someone playing a recording of Laney’s voice on a cheap Bluetooth speaker.

Figuring the guys were trying to play a trick on him, he continued on. The voice was deeper in the woods now, away from both the river and the campsite.

The shadow strobed from one tree to the next ahead. Jacob stopped dead in his tracks. “What the gently caress was that?” he breathed to himself.

“Hey!” Not-Laney’s voice called again. It was clearly coming from whatever figure just ran behind the tree.

He shined his phone’s flashlight at the tree and jumped back, the light flailing with him. In that light he saw two all-white eyes reflecting back at him, set in the face of a seven-foot-tall hulking creature with black, shaggy fur.

Jacob froze in terror, phone dropping to the forest floor. He drew breath to scream, but never got the chance. His head rolled to a stop by a nearby tree before the rest of his body slumped to the ground. The creature moved forward to claim its prize, shuffling closer in a gorilla-style walk.

Back at the camp, Laney had finished prepping the fire. It was truly getting dark now, even in the clearing their tents were set up in. She realized rather belatedly that Jacob hadn’t come back yet. Curious and a little concerned, she let the others know where she was going and grabbed a flashlight.

She walked a few paces into the woods before calling out for him.

“Hey!” Jacob’s voice called.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Going Ataxx Hunting

see archive

Thranguy fucked around with this message at 07:19 on Jan 8, 2024

Dec 15, 2006

b l o o p

Benji13’s Cryptid Tier List 2023!!!
521 words

I’m back with another video, this one just in time for Halloween! Sorry it’s been so long since my last one, I got grounded for some stupid bullsh*t. But whatever, let’s get to the CRYPTID TIER LIST!!

Jersey Devil
Tier Ranking: S

Coming out the gate with the big guns, it’s the Jersey Devil! This dude is metal as f*ck! He comes from the New Jersey pine barrens, whatever those are, but who cares when you look like this?? A goat head, bat wings, and a forked tail, this guy looks like he stepped off a sick album cover. According to legend, he was the cursed thirteenth child in his family, and turned into a devil right after being born. No parents to yell at you??? Doesn’t sound like a curse to me!

Tier Ranking: A

This guy comes from West Virginia originally, and appears when there’s a disaster about to happen. Some people think that he might even be connected to UFOs! He’s got awesome glowy eyes, dark aura, and can FLY?! Heck yes! Mothman is super cool. Only reason this guy isn’t S-tier is because of all the stupid “LAMP” memes. Probably also cool to hang out with, seems like a chill dude. Would probably let you stay up as late as you want, since he’s nocturnal and all.

Fresno Nightcrawler
Tier Ranking: D

Okay, these guys are just straight up dumb. Coming from Fresno, California, they’re just… walking pants?? Why do people think they’re cool? Seriously, I don’t get these guys. But since they don’t have mouths, they can’t tell you to do chores, and they probably wouldn’t nag you about dirty laundry in case you put THEM away! Lololololol

Loveland Frogman
Tier Ranking: C

Four-foot frog man from Ohio. Kinda dumb, but not as dumb as floating pants. Still, since he’s not too tall he wouldn’t make you look short in front of your girlfriend (shout out to Mia!!), and you wouldn’t have to pull hair out of the shower drain when you get stuck cleaning the bathroom, AGAIN.

Loch Ness Monster
Tier Ranking: B

Come on, a Scottish dinosaur?? That’s freaking cool! Loses points for being stuck in a lake, but still pretty epic. I think this one is maybe supposed to be a girl, though? Whatever, still probably better than what I have to put up with.

Michigan Dogman
Tier Ranking: SS

WOLFMAN RULES! This guy is basically just a werewolf, but why improve on perfection? Coming from the best state of Michigan, and not dumb*ss Washington, this guy is THE COOLEST! I bet he’d let me get a dog, and drive me wherever I wanted, and not care if I didn’t get a good grade on my stupid history project. Way, waaaaaay better than any other cryptid, anyone who says otherwise is LYING!!!

Tier Ranking: TRASH

More like SUCKSquatch! Hugely overrated and a total jerkoff. I wish Mom had never met you. **NOT MY REAL DAD!!!!**

Okay that wraps up the Cryptid Tier List. See you next week for another video, unless my a*shole stepdad grounds me AGAIN.

The Swinemaster
Dec 28, 2005

623 words.

Dear John

I’m leaving you, and it’s not just because of the gremlin.

I feel there’s something between us, something driving us apart, something that leaves your side of the bed cold. And it’s not just the gremlin

When we met, you asked to try your new hobby of palmistry and took my hand in yours. I jumped, but you held tight so I couldn’t pull away. Cold hands, warm heart, you said. I wonder.

You traced your index finger on my palm, your torn cuticle scratching the route ahead. Told of good fortunes and vague promises. You gave me that old love line. Looking into your eyes, I wondered if you hadn’t been dabbling into mesmerism as well.

The last time you held my hand was to get a drop of blood. A drop of blood for a homunculus that shrieked until 4 am before it finally dissolved into damp ash and we could get some sleep.

When you brought home the crystal ball to fill out your hobby room, I supported you. Even though it cost a month’s rent and I’m pretty sure it was a bowling ball without fingerholes.
So now you’re gazing at balls, I said. Why break the habit of a lifetime? We laughed together. I turned on Netflix. You went into your hobby room and closed the door. You must have seen something in that ball. Why else would you spend all those nights, locked away, gazing?

I guess you saw enough, cause now the ball is gathering dust. And it feels like mine are too.

But when you came in with the gremlin idea, I thought it would bring us together. Like a pet. Like the baby we could never make. My god, the hours we spent looking for ingredients. Are you still banned from the zoo, I wonder? We would have had to dig through the darkest jungle to get all of it. So, you went on Amazon instead.

But, you did make it yourself, I’ll give you that. And when that small, homemade egg appeared, smoking and putrid, you swept it up an sat on it. And we made up for our Netflix time. Until it hatched.

He was cute, in a slimy kind of way. When you held him in your arms, every inch the proud papa, I thought this just might work. But when it was time to put in the work, where were you? When we found out Norman wouldn’t wear a diaper? When he decided to snack on our Ethernet cable? When he popped his festering buboes into the wallpaper? You can open a portal to the underworld, sure, but how about you summon the strength to pick dried gremlin turds out of the sock drawer?

Now you’re out again at midnight, doing God-knows with Christ-knows who. Your old routine, speaking tongues and making eyes. And I’m here, alone. The gremlin is tearing the tape out of all your old cassettes, by the way. He puts the tapes back in backward and upside down. It’s actually quite meditative.

I know you can make vows and pledges. Lord knows I’ve heard you screaming them for Satan at guttering candles in the moonlight. But what about me? What about commitment to me? Your problem is you’re a dabbler. You try your hand at these hobbies, and lose interest. You’ve lost your interest in me now. So what did that make me, a hobby?

Your devil may care attitude was cute when we were 25, but I need something more.

I’m leaving this letter in the one place I know Norman won’t touch. His immaculate loving litterbox.

It’s not just because of the gremlin. But he didn’t help.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
The Master of the House

“This is it, Will. After tonight everything will change. Everything will go back to the way it’s supposed to be,” my dad said. He had that same look in his eye that he had on the day mom left us. Kind of bewildered and out of focus, like he was looking through me, moreso than at me.

I nodded mechanically, and offered “sure” as reply which was good enough for him. He clapped me on my shoulder with tears welling up in his tired eyes. He was unkempt and had an air of vodka permeating him like a blanket. I said “sure” again, trying to convince myself that today would change something. That things would be different.

“Hand me that tape measure would you?” dad asked, and reluctantly, I resigned myself to feeding into his obsession. When I was a kid, I didn’t know any better. Hell, I hadn’t really had much choice. If he felt something was real, who was I to challenge it? I was just a kid.

When I was old enough, I asked him why mom left us and he just studied my face, as if gauging my sincerity, then his own features slackened as if he felt guilty about something. “Son, what I am about to tell you is not something I tell you easily. There are forces in this world beyond our mortal comprehension. Higher AND lower planes of existence all layered on top of one another to culminate in this collective experience we call reality.”

I swallowed hard, my throat drying by the second, not sure what to make of this but if he saw any sign of unease on my face, he continued right past it and said, “son, our family is cursed by one such creature, or perhaps, even creatures called duendes. Mischievous goblin-like creatures that are drawn towards humans. However, somewhere in our lineage was someone who inadvertently, or deliberately, angered one of these creatures. This is the reason your mother left. It has been manipulating our lives for so long. Every small inconvenience. Every misplaced item. All the unnatural suffering that has seemingly been inflicted upon us can bet raced back to these malicious creatures.”

By the time I had turned 10 I began to suspect that something was off. The idea was cemented by the age of thirteen, and now nearly a decade later, even with all my uncertainty about the world, I knew that somewhere along the line, my dad had been self deceived. I couldn’t muster up the strength to tell him, and I felt that sooner than later, I like my mom, would have to leave him.

Instead, I just nodded and handed him the tape measure then went back to standing awkwardly by the door that led into the house from the garage. He was rechecking measurements against some hardly legible notes he kept in a tattered journal. I tried reading them once, but it read like the diary of someone on the verge of writing a manifesto and I couldn’t bring myself to finish. Instead, I had committed myself to helping him with his various experiments and projects over the years. Usually just providing moral support or handing him tools as he calibrated dangerous and bizarre traps. He had inflicted a number of injuries to himself as a result, but was always careful to ensure that I was never injured.

Something had changed though. This trap was different, a bit scarier to be honest. While bear traps and falling cages did carry a certain cartoonish horror of their own, it was the bowl of blood and blackened mushrooms that finally broke my nerve. When I asked my dad where the blood came from, he just kind of shrugged and I didn’t press the issue.

Around the garage were a multitude of expensive cameras that served different purposes from thermographic imaging to smart-sensor high speed cameras that would take thousand of photos in seconds. All things he had accumulated as birthdays got missed, utilities went unpaid, and many dinners were skipped. He justified this by saying, “Just one photo. Just one clear image, and that’ll be all the proof we need.”

Having come this far along with him on his journey,hiis obsession hammering smooth the edges of own conviction, I wanted to believe. I had to. I needed for this, no matter how hosed up it all was, to be real.

* * *

Satisfied with his measurements and his “trap” my father went to his computer where he monitored each of the cameras, night after night, only getting enough sleep as to not die. Typically, I’d go to to bed when he’d begin this routine, but tonight was different. I stayed beside him, watching the screens waiting for any sign of movement.

When something inexplicable happened. The air at the back of garage seemed to shimmer in the camera feeds like the distortions of heat. Then, visible on all feeds, something seemed to shake itself free from the open air of the garage, pulling itself into the material world as if by instinct or compulsion. It looked like a tiny person, but that was really just what my eyes and brain kept trying to actively reconcile it as. It’s eyes would shrink and swell, and it’s limbs would elongate then crimp. It was as if maintaining its corporeal form was more of our plane of existence trying to keep things level. Like a skittish kitten, the shape cautiously approached the bowl of blood and begagn drinking from it. Then it picked up the mushrooms in small grubby hands and ate those as well. It’s true form never coming into focus.

My father burst into the room then, a madness in his eyes as the proof he needed to ensure he wasn’t mad suddenly appeared. The tears flowed freely from his eyes as he struggled to speak caught between excitement and fear. He ran into the garage to try and get his hands on the creature, but when he did, he shrieked. He let out an agonized wail and called for me, but it was too late.

My father was gone. I watched as he faded from our reality to places unknown. Then, in his place for only a second was the duende, small with features mostly settled. A greying, mottled skin on its humanoid shape. His face was my father’s and he smiled the same distant smile he had given me all these years, and then it too, faded away.

I tried explaining to the cops. I tried calling up the relatives who hadn’t cut themselves out of our lives. I tried calling my mother who I hadn’t spoken to in nearly two decades, but there was no one. The more I said, the crazier I sounded. No one believed my story, only accepted as the ramblings of a man who had lost his family years ago, and in some sense they were right, but they were also wrong.

I know now that my father wasn’t crazy. That it is just this world that’s crazy. Filled with the unknowable at every junction, hidden just beneath plain sight. I followin my father’s footsteps, I set the traps, I take the notes, I bide my time until the creature or creatures reveal themselves to me, and I’ll be ready this time. I’ll be waiting.

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:


Larry and Mae’s Boys of Steel by Fat Jesus

This story hits a vibe of “your unpleasant uncle traps you at a party and tells you a story he thinks is very funny and good and you really wish he’d leave you alone.” Ideally I’d find myself engaged and intrigued despite myself, and there’s a few lines where it almost happens, but between the generally exhausting Boomers In Space tone and the formatting errors, I lose interest almost as soon as I gain it. There’s too many asides, too many names, and too little engagement from the main character. He never sweats, he just naps and kills and naps and fucks and naps and threatens a government. This story gets marks off from me for being so close to something that could be quite good, really, but gets in its own way.

The Bedrock Dispatch by beep beep car is go

I loved this. I don’t care that it’s fanfic. I think this story had a beginning, middle, and disquieting finish. I was happy to read it, and I’m happy to read it again now. I think it doesn’t need the last bit, about the guy outside town, unless it was going to be about him. I know you needed stampeding dinosaurs for your prompt, but the story was complete without it.

the pony was a lie by Yoruichi

A good use of the prompt, and also a pretty good and weird story. “It’s not a sin to break another’s heart” is good. You don’t have to be a villain to break up, you don’t even have to be a villain to want revenge for being hurt. You probably do have to be a villain to straight up stab a dude tho. I kind of wish she’d experienced more consequences, or hadn’t escaped hell quite so neatly, but that seems minor, and the fact that the pony is still hanging out seems to indicate that more Shenanigans are probable.

Fear and Barking on I-95 by LurchinTard

Short and sweet. A day in the life of a mob courier. I enjoyed this, it didn’t overstay its welcome, and it told me a neat little story with obvious stakes. I think having had more to do with the dog itself would have been neat in order to fit with the prompt, or at least a “why” of the boss wanting his dog, but honestly? It works fine without that.

Babble by Albatrossy_Rodent

A nice little psychotic break, as a treat. I liked the way the real and the un/surreal interwove in this piece. It captures a very specific discomfort and anxiety of adolescence, which serves the Hellrule neatly. It’s one of those stories that I genuinely don’t have much to say about, because it was just neatly done.

agonway by derp

Sometimes I see your stories on the page and it makes my eyes cross, no lie. You create these impenetrable walls of words, words seemingly cut off from their meaning, and the reader has to choose to let themself be overwhelmed. This needed to be read aloud, even the bits that weren’t words. So I did. And when I did I wanted to nominate it for the win. This story is unapologetically uncomfortable: dissolving into meaninglessness at the point where it’s most relatable. I loved it for that.

Also I’ve just had so many loving bullshit interactions with psychiatrists who fully don’t believe that the meds they’re prescribing could possibly be causing our clients a problem, so on the purely textual level, I was in.

Hoist the Main Clothes! by the man called M

This story had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It had a character with a recognizable and consistent voice throughout, and the grammar wasn’t obviously atrocious. I think you picked the wrong POV character to write from, this would have been a more interesting story from Jim’s point of view, but you did at least capture that dread of watching someone get into a dangerous situation, and knowing that if it goes wrong it’s at least partially your fault.

Pale Imitation by Paladinus

This is such a fun idea, but the execution was just a half-beat off the mark. Like Xerox’s speech, the first half is overwrought and the second half is too light, it runs away with itself rather than letting us enjoy the action of a fraudster in a firefight, or even better, a practitioner of mystical arts against the FBI! That would be fun! Instead he runs away and gets shot and the magic disc also gets shot and the whole thing is just wrapped up like a scooby doo episode. An edit for pacing would make this story really, genuinely good.

Burnout by Lord Zedd-Repulsa

The middle and end is better than the beginning. I liked where this went, though it seems like it accelerated way faster than maybe it should have. I feel like some of the motives surrounding everything other than “burn stuff -> relax” are unclear. Does he have a crush on his roommate? It’s not in the text but “he’ll be able to think clearly with Jill” seems to imply it. What is he studying? Why is he studying that instead of something easier where he could more confidently maintain his financial aid? Sure, these things don’t matter to the story, but I feel like when you’re asking the reader to have sympathy for an arsonist, those details do matter.

Sun Salutations at Dusk by The Cut Of Your Jib

This had some really lovely lines and paragraphs but the tone shifted between those lovely, weird close third person moments and kind of bland descriptions so frequently that it was hard to really catch what was going on. I do, however, want to watch this anime/play the two-table magical girl rpg inspired by this story. So it’s got legs.

Eartha and the Kitts by Doctor Zero

Holky gently caress the formatting dude. This was physically hard to read, and unlike in derp’s story it’s clearly not intentional. Which is a shame, because this was genuinely fun! Better formatting and cutting some of the repetitive “Scott sneaks around, Eartha sings him a message” bits would have made this one of the front runners for me, because I adore goofy premises and lots of dialogue, and this has those things.

26 Seconds in Dallas by QuoProQuid

This belongs in a collection somewhere. I really hope you find someone to publish it. It’s too good to sit behind SA’s paywall.

Surf and Stones by Slightly Lions

A sweetly described story that would probably have been better without adherence to the prompt that inspired it, the onomatopoeia were cute but distracted from really good lines like “They were a knot of sunburned skin and acne in bright-colored bathing suits”. This was a very sweet, simple snapshot of being twelve and not really engaged with the world everyone else seems to be engaged with, and (shocking for a goon I know) I found that pretty relatable.

A Change Of Perspective by Crain

A good concept, but the shift was too abrupt. I think you tried signaling the change with the “oh they get weird at about two or three years,” but because the mood and tone of the piece was sort of matter-of-fact, slice-of-lifey rather than foreboding it didn’t really come across. Also, the fact that Jessie genuinely did take pretty good care of Shelby only to be discarded made the whole thing pretty sour. I’m not against “you can do everything right and still have things suck” as a central conceit, but this didn’t quite hit the right beats to make that come together for me.

Broken Promises by Fumblemouse

I really enjoyed this, but it has the “three drafts pushed together” vibe that a lot of my own Thunderdome entries have. He says he sets a trap, but then his cat catches it instead of him. He says he wrote the story already, but then says he didn’t. He ends the story saying he’s not willing to give it up and it sounds like time is about to pass, but then his cat immediately knocks the thing off the shelf. It’s a cute metafiction and I like the little glimmer wyrms story, and as a person who writes extensively from her D&D campaigns I like the central device. I think it just needs a bit of streamlining to finish it off.

Unchee by Tars Tarkas

This started off kind of neat, the Unchees are satisfyingly alien, but then all the drama happens between the two humans and it becomes a wizard duel with aliens instead of wands. Unfortunately there isn’t enough There there for me to really give a solid crit. Prose quality is fine. The story itself just doesn’t work.

Little Mars Buggy by ChairChucker

I really enjoyed this, but I always get the feeling that your stories really want to be little animated shorts. They’re cinematic, dialogue-heavy, action focused, and usually they’re fun, which not all stories this week were. I’d happily read more about this alien and its weird human sidekick running from space-cops and doing sick tricks in craters, but I also feel like the story ended in a reasonable and appropriate spot.

The War for Hearts and Minds by Dicere

A slow start to a heartwarming finish. Time Travelers ensuring that Mr. Rogers learns the right lesson is a really lovely twist on the “go back and kill hitler” thing. Ensuring that creators have their motives to create is a really good time travel conceit, and I’m not sure I got it on the first read-through, possibly due to the aforementioned slow start. This one could use just a bit of pruning to bring out its full beauty.

Blood and Ashes by Fuschia Tude

I’m going to be honest, I had to skim quite a lot of the middle, basically as soon as Saul gets introduced. It doesn’t feel like it’s well-contained by the form it’s in. It either needs to be longer, with more exposition and reasoning and focus on the fact that Mila can’t see and Diego can’t speak and how that informs their relationship and lives, or it needs to be a lot shorter, focused specifically on Mila and Rosa. I love the concept, and I’d love to see it in a format that really lets it breathe.

See You Later Alligator by Bad Seafood

This story is rad. The final image belongs on a t-shirt sold at boardwalks everywhere. I’m not sure how the philosophy played into it, but man do I love the idea of a crocodile riding an explosion into the night. Silly, cinematic, and fun. Good stuff.

Intestacy by Sebmojo

Oh boy, the language threw me out of this one immediately. That’s absolutely a “me” problem, though, it’s Voicey in a way that I think works for the story, it’s just not a voice that attracts me, personally, as a reader. I think it would have been better if the motivations of the characters had been just a bit more clear. It’s possible, even probable, that my difficulty parsing the voice of this contributes to my confusion, but I’m left with some irritating questions. Why does Adeline think it’s the Smythe’s doing? Why was Plactrum trying to kill Thomasin? What’s Alan doing with his tea? Without motivations I don’t really understand how anything in the mixed up timeline interrelates.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

:siren: Week 584 Results :siren:

WINNER - Going Ataxx Hunting by Thranguy

Felt like a complete world in 1300 words, packed with grungy sci-fi jargon that doesn't bog down the flow. Action pretty good. You do bounce between Atazz and Ataxx so could have used a proofing run for consistency, but even with that glaring error, it's solid and fun.

No other mentions good or bad, no loser.

Idle Imalgam - The Master of the House

Doesn't Will now have at least something on tape? I waffled about HMing this, since the Dad's obsession is the primary antagonist throughout and that was pretty well done. But to get Will to fall into the same trap, you just forgot about the video evidence--even if it is a blur, there's infrared and at least the Dad bursting into the room and grappling with 'something' then disappearing. Too big a plot hole to ignore since the equipment is prominent.

TheMackening - Raven Mocker, Shadow Walker

It's p. well written, sentence by sentence. Let's play it out as a full length movie: you set up two queer characters, then they get killed in the first fifteen minutes, now the other 60 are following the hets. Why not just flip it entirely and make it an all-queer camping trip? Anyone is capable of making a dumb sex joke when two people go off together to gather firewood. But also there's a theme here about identity, and maybe I'm reading too much into it since it was probably unintentional, you were just writing some horror with a little representation, but the monster impersonates the queer characters to kill them. Like you could read that as implying that there's something dangerous about queer voices while the "normies" are safe at camp. Definitely should have taken out Matt and Ash first, and one minute allies, the next minute doppelgangers chasing you through the woods would be a good metaphor for being queer in the current climate. Laney could have found the pocket knife and we're left with the notion that maybe there's a chance.

The Swinemaster - Dear John

You know, I think the title hurts this more than it helps. With just a few slight changes, I might have interpreted it as a monologue and that allows for the discovery of the anger at the end when the narrator puts it all together.
Like, there are some funny lines and good wordplay in this, but a few are a little flippant for a "Dear John" letter, you know? Especially one where a partner is leaving someone else who they considered having (and sort of did) a child with, and they're now sitting at home alone, well, with Norman, writing it. It seems to me in that situation the tone of this letter would be different.
This would probably be something they've written and re-written in their head a million times before committing to paper, so I'd expect the barbs to be jagged and more frustration throughout, not mostly melancholy with jokes about dusty balls.
I'd say decent writing in a suss framing device?

curlingiron - Benji13’s Cryptid Tier List 2023!!!

Double dip with the crits on critters.
Reminds me of that Joel Haver character, where he live streams a video game as a waddup waddup kind of guy, but quickly starts talking about his life and it inevitably ends with him having a cringey breakdown.
Would have liked some more details, "still probably better than what I have to put up with" could have been replaced with something specific, but it's cool that the cryptids are thematically linked with the kid's 'problems.' There's more to it on a second reading, so it's not totally dumb.
I think the punctuation is wacky for basically a transcript of a video. maybe benji13 says lolololol irl, maybe. YouTube auto-generated subtitles bleep with bull [ ____ ] or similar nowadays, so that would have been a good detail to toss in.

Maybe longer crits in a bit, gdoc is on the fritz for me.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Thunderdome Week DLXXXV: Hellmark Classics

In the War on Christmas, it must be understood that Christmas has ever been the aggressor, overruning Thanksgiving and pressing further and further against Halloween, driving Pumpkin spice season back into summer. It is time for a counteroffensive.

So, this week, I want you to pick out one of the 395(!) Hallmark Christmas Movies (Link is to IMDB), and write a story that takes the summary of that movie and adds some horror elements. You may change names of you want, you may set your story at any time of the year. If you state your chosen story when you sign up nobody else can use that one. Otherwise, put it in your post as you would a flash rule. I can assign you one but honestly you'll get the same kind of result using your own random number generator. 

1000 words base. Since we've had a couple recent weeks with fewer than three judges this is a crit bounty week, you can get 100 extra words for each crit posted on a a week you didn't judge, up to 5 stories/500 words. You may post the crits any time up to when you post the story.

Usual rules and exclusions apply, no screeds, poetry, erotica, fanfic.

Signups close 11:59 PM Friday Pacific time

Submissions close 11:59 Sunday Pacific Time




Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

In with Sister Swap: Hometown Holiday

Jan 21, 2010

when i get up all i want to do is go to bed again

Lipstick Apathy
in with Open by Christmas

Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.

In with 12 Gifts of Christmas.

Idle Amalgam
Mar 7, 2008

said I'm never lackin'
always pistol packin'
with them automatics
we gon' send 'em to Heaven
In with 28 Cancel Christmas

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

thank you cp and other critters

in with A Shoe Addict's Christmas

but don't look farther than the title, there is an IMDb controversy about the plot, lol

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


in, flash please

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.

rohan posted:

in, flash please

Journey Back to Christmas

Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:

In with Christmas Under Wraps

Sep 22, 2000

Soiled Meat
In with one of the more ominously-titled entries in L'ouevre de Salle-Marque: Christmas for Keeps.

Sep 11, 2018

I never said I was a role model.

The Gift That Takes
999 words
Movie: 12 Gifts of Christmas

My human doesn’t know what she wants, but I do. I’ve watched her ever since she summoned me to this plane in an act of teenage recklessness – a beautiful, depraved moment she now regrets. But these days, she surrounds herself with mankind’s glittering vultures and calls the vapid, penthouse-dwelling refuse of the city ‘friends.’ She feigns happiness well enough, but I know she misses me.

I carve my name into her ceiling from time to time to remind her I’m still here. She can’t parse the etchings; instead she screams, sighs, and usually moves into another building. My human dislikes my games. Her days are full of phone calls and legal jargon that bore me to dissolution when I listen from within whatever walls she hasn’t warded. I yearn to feel her pulse. I see fresh fractures in her soul as plain as the cracks in the plaster that can hardly contain me.

When Christmas nears, she’s gaunt and frantic, stretched too thin. She publishes a plea for help online. My little human, eager to appear the doting friend, must now outsource the task of gift-procurement. I should find this ritual tedious, but instead I see an opportunity. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before; the wards and their buzzing dull my thoughts. But tonight, as stress erodes her guard, I seize clarity.

Snowflakes blanket the world in silence as I enact my plan. I make myself look like the men she ogles when she thinks no one is looking. It takes time and careful consideration, but when I find the right face, the flesh sloughs off his bones easily enough. His skin is snug, but I won’t need it for long. I respond to her post, my fingers uncooperative as I stab at the dead man’s computer. I weave words into the lifeline she so desperately wants.


When we meet over coffee the next day to discuss the particulars. I can’t stop smiling as she finally looks at me, even though it’s not me she sees. It’s an exhilarating sensation. I watch her knee bounce up and down — she’s had too much caffeine. Her cheeks are pink and full, and she’s hesitant to meet my gaze as she explains her situation. She can’t see how I strain against this flesh and wool suit I’ve stolen. I struggle to keep my teeth contained to the two rows allotted to human mouths. I nod when she hands me the list. I parrot platitudes I have memorized over time. Twelve names, she gives me. Twelve names and no gifts specified. Only descriptions of their connection to my little human and their tastes. Most are followed by question marks.

I tell my little human I’m going to save this delightful holiday, and that she won’t see me until the work is done. I will find her on Christmas Eve. She says she’s already got plans with co-workers that night, but that we will certainly meet soon after so I can collect my payment. I repress a delighted shudder. I don’t tell her I know about her holiday party, or that she’ll never arrive.

After we say our farewells, I linger on the sidewalk a while longer. When she vanishes across the street, I crumple the piece of lined paper and feed it to the gutter. I already know each name on this list intimately. I know them all better than they know themselves, and I will give them nothing short of perfection. The first name on the list belongs to the divorce lawyer Denice. Her gift is obvious and quick to acquire. I give her half of the man that broke her heart and took her Mercedes. The left half of him, specifically. The woman’s screams are thanks enough as I slip out of her living room and into the place between spaces.

Eleven names remain. Designer Katie is insecure about her looks, so I replace her face with Mira’s, who Katie has always envied. The ex-boyfriend Dallas is third, and while his name elicits a great rippling hate in me, I mind my manners for my little human. I remember Dallas’ wandering eyes, so I take them and leave in their place marbles of the rarest onyx, priceless and sightless. A win-win, as my little human likes to say.

Night after night, I become Saint Nick and leave my presents. Some are better received than others. The sports fanatic Sascha from Detroit does not survive his live tiger, which is unfortunate. When I return to my little human’s apartment, she is pacing and sobbing into the phone. She pleads with the person on the other end to help her make sense of poor Sascha’s death. I begin to wonder if she suspects me, but soon it won’t matter.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

Night falls. My meat suit’s rot becomes a hindrance. I all but shamble to where my little human awaits her delayed taxi at the end of the block. Her makeup is perfect, and I know she’s dressed to the nines underneath that black wool coat. Those red-painted lips crease in a frown. She looks uneasy as she scans the road with her eyes. I feel her tense up when she spots me walking toward her. I scent the moment her surprise turns to fear. I hear chaos in her mind as my clever human comes around to the truth. I’m close enough to touch her when I loosen my hold on the disguise and let myself slip through.


“Me.” The creases of my mask tear as I show her my full smile. “Surprise.”

Her eyes burn with defiance. I’ve always adored that fire.

“No…” she replies. “I banished you.”

“We all make mistakes.” I laugh, splitting the swollen seams of my disguise. The flesh falls away and in an instant, I am everywhere. She spins, looking for what cannot be seen as I whisper in her ear. “But I forgive you.”

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe
In with The Angel Tree

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Signuos are closed, one judge slot remains.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 585 Crit Bounties

2 total (so far)

I liked both stories fairly well. I'd be hard pressed to pick a winner if they were brawl entries. Both toy with themes of nostalgia in different ways. Hit me up in chat if I'm off the mark or missed something


Week 582 crit - Hyper-Local Obscurities

Brand new ancestral tradition

André was winded. He sweated, even in the shade of the juniper trees. His feet hurt, even in sports shoes. How old was he, he wondered, and of course he knew the answer, but then he stumbled on an exposed root in the path, and Camille had to grab him lest he fell.

“We’re almost there,” she said. Her smile was a little worried. Even his daughter had gray hair.

A couple uses of “even” already. We’ll see if it’s a pattern that makes lyrical sense as we read, but it stands out this early in.

Camille’s children had stridden ahead with the impatience of youth. When he left the juniper grove he saw them twenty meters below, arguing about a large stone. The slope around them was steep, mostly scorched grass with patches of broom and lavender.

Stridden is a cool word and I might take that and use it somehow in the future, but one of the things I learned a little while ago is eliminating all the ‘helper’ verbs to give a sense of immediacy in past tense. ‘Camille’s children strode ahead with the impatience of youth’ sounds much more impetuous. It’s a style thing, sure, but it’s the first thing I look at when trying to beat a word count, and I think it just makes for sharper writing.

“Be careful dad, the trail is steep. You want me to go first?”

The steep trail is already stated. Saying it to dad is one thing, but the audience already knows. I trust it’ll be important later.

André descended the trail carefully, without answering. His adult grandson and granddaughter were arguing about legends.
“But the stories of Melusine and Arthur, they were new once too,” his granddaughter said.
“They weren’t made up by a company, though,” his grandson said.
“How do you know?”

Melusine is an interesting choice here, I mean everybody knows the Lady of the Lake, and a subset knows Nimue, or Vivienne, or some variant. But I wasn’t familiar with Mel. and I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the French versions to know what’s what. Melusine seems more sinister and lamia/succubus like over the tame version we know today. It’s interesting to think about, anyway.

When André reached them he saw the stone was a concrete block with stylized low reliefs of knight and a fay. A small placard beside it explained that the fay lived in the lake and the knight was in love with her. The trail they walked was themed after their legend.

“Grandpa, do you remember that, a story of a fay living in a water and a knight, from when you were young? I think they made it up after they filled the reservoir, and now they pretend it’s from the Middle Ages.”
“No, I don’t think so, I don't remember that.”

Fay is an usual spelling again, like Melusine. It’s interesting (and a correct usage) but it doesn’t feel right like ‘fey’ does. The framing story is modern, so I’d maybe go with the standard spelling here to make it easy. If you were writing an early medieval tale, I’d be stoked with the fay spelling and Melusine references.

He sat on the stone, one buttock on the knight and the other on the fay, catching his breath. He looked at the lake, trying to see beyond it, under it. He closed his eyes to see better.

“See,” his grandson said, “it’s all made up. Fake medieval kitsch for the tourists.”
“Let your grandfather rest,” Camille said. Lower, she added, “That was where it was.”

That was where it was indeed, the village where he had grown, before the dam, before college, before selling insurance in a small town with a graveyard full of strangers and a concrete church. The place where their family came from, generations buried under the waters.

This is very evocative and I love it. There are many ghost towns underwater around me and the irony is the power plant is closed down, so you could have made this even more poignant by highlighting the waste. But it’s still great.

He sat there a long time, the others rested on the grass around him, surrounding him with unspoken affection, a little regretful, as if he was dead already like his wife.

Also great and insightful.

“Do you remember the place?” his granddaughter asked, a bit enticing, as if politely asking for a share of his memories. “The village?”

We know what she’s doing, don’t really need to spell it out here.

Every house, every shop, every barn, he remembered it all. He had been there before, in this very sport, he was sure, when ran through the countryside with the other boys, tearing their clothes on broom thorns. He saw the limestone chapel, the fountain with its rusty pipe, Mr Germain’s school, the war memorial with his two uncles (his mother always pointed them to him and she was sad, even twenty years after the war). He remembered the three roads meeting in a Y on the village square and the dry stone walls on either side of them. He saw the pastures and the fields, the overgrown pond, the small wood where they played at war. There was one tree, a gnarly oak, with two boughs that formed a perfect seat, and when they raced for it the winner got to sit on it. He saw the hill that was now an island, the river where he jumped one winter on a dare, the mill whose owner was a cousin to whom nobody talked.

Maybe should have broken this up a bit. There are lots of details, but it’s not frenetic like a memory of an aged man might have, nor exactly poetic. I think intercutting this with some commentary in the present day would help, or working more on the prose to make it impressionistic would have been cool.

He remembered the sound of dead scattered people’s voices and horse cart wheels. He remembered the smell of manure and hay. He remembered the taste of tallow on rye bread, and Sunday jam, and communion wafers. He remembered his own grandfather, sitting in the sun, smoking and spitting. He remembered blood on his wife’s scraped knee, she must have been eight or so, and the way she bit her lip to be brave. It all came rushing to him and he bit his lip too.

This is good. The above paragraph about the geography of the town should match this level of misty prose.

And for maybe the first time in his life, something selfish called at André, like a voice from the lake, a desire to keep for himself what had been taken from him.

“I don’t remember that well,” he said.

Interesting ending. Makes you wonder about how dementia effects people, but it’s not helpful to Andre or his grandchildren. Might be neat to really show the dichotomy between what the youth see and be more abrupt. Lake banks and hiking trails. Hard stop. It was the trail where we carried milk pails. There’s where the canoe rental is. Hard stop. Germain’s school was there. Really hammer the differences in the landscape and bounce back and forth through time. That keeps the narrative interesting.

Juniper has a distinctive smell, so a little surprised that smell doesn’t factor into the memories anywhere. It’s a strong remembrance component.

I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but a little editing and rearranging could have made it really special.


Week 582 crit - Hyper-Local Obscurities

The Advent of Television

OK, I didn’t read the prompt/flash before this, so I took the story as it came at me. I think the problems are apparent when you don’t see the flash rule. There are good passages, it just gets a little confused without doing some research outside the story. I’m always guilty of that same fault so I don’t fault you too much.

"Just ordinary, as expected."

Very loaded first sentence. Interested to see what this is about.

Masao mumbled to himself, and finished chewing the first bite of his dumplings. Juicy with the flavor of beef, the satisfying elasticity of konnyaku, and finished a touch of cool mayo a small sprinkle of green onion, a drizzle of sweetly-dark sauce to bring it all together, it was familiar, yet had a subtle freshness to it. Being a boy of ten years of age, the taste of nostalgia was a phenomena that was still blossoming for him. There was something there that tickled his senses in a way that evoked a tinge of transient memories that struck and faded like a bolt of lightning.

"Hey, mister, what do you call these things," he called out, peering over the counter towards the kitchen.

And finished a touch and also and also and also and also. Could rearrange this to be more elegant. I usually glaze over on food descriptions, but I do like the specificity of the chewy dumpling (one of my favorites), so if you’re going for it describe the earthiness of the beef and what the sauce tastes like. I don’t think the taste of nostalgia is present at all in a ten year old. Maybe the best you can hope for is that mom will constantly say ‘this is your grandmother’s recipe’ and you will remember later the memory and conjure the nostalgia via your parents’ nostalgia.

The chef's cleaver thumped against the cutting board over the muffled static of a transistor radio sitting on the counter. A nightly science program was running its course, as scheduled. The middle-aged man working the kitchen set his cleaver down and turned towards the boy, wiping the sweat from his brow.

This is good imagery. It’s simple, but I can see exactly what’s going on and am projecting my own version of a noodle stand onto it.

Showa period, 8th year. Advances in the field of electronics have been made last month in Germany, as engineers have produced a concept for a glass cathode ray tube, dubbed the 'CRT'..

The program continued as he approached.

"Those are Radioyaki. And I am Endo," he watched patiently as Masao swallowed another bite, then continued:

"Packed with flavor. Each bite tastes as if you are eating them for the first time."

The switchup between tradition and the new technology is cool, interested to see if it pays off somehow.

Masao appeared unimpressed, but the man was able to sense the boy's curiosity slowly building.

"Well, mister, this is the first time."

"And..?" Endo asked, eagerly.

...and are expected to display a picture of far greater fidelity than the current spiral of apertures utilized in the neon tube 'Televisors' developed by Baird incorporated, across the Pacific...
You can look up the specific details of TV and CRTs and maybe I’m wrong, but I think a Japanese broadcast would probably make note of the hometown hero, and maybe the fact that he’s largely a forgotten figure in the West would be a good detail to note since this has already laid out nostalgia as a thesis.

The program buzzed softly from a few feet away.

"It's not that they aren't good, Mr Endo. It's just.." He paused, and began to chew the last morsel of the 3-serving dish. He delivered the news, unperceptive of the program playing in the background:

"Bor-ing." Masao placed his chopsticks on the face of the empty dish.

Endo concealed the slight graze to his ego with a chortle. "Is food supposed to be fun?" He muttered and turned towards the radio, hitting back with a firm "MURI."

"It was tasty, I wouldn't look forward to eating it again," Masao chirped. "The meaty part is a bit rough. It takes time to chew through, it's like a chore."

Maybe I’m just of a different culture, but tough beef is never what a chef wants to hear, and Endo seems a little indifferent. Or maybe it’s the story telling—it starts out like a guy making a fancy meal for a ten year old, because that’s what he does and who he is, and maybe a kid not fully appreciating it would be a good tale, but the chef’s ‘muri’ makes it seem like he doesn’t care about food, really. It’s weird and the kid’s critiques are maybe too on the nose. After the first description, these seemed like great dumplings, but now I think they stink. What’s going on.

...within the next decade and beyond, engineers expect to construct a tube that can display a full-color picture far more exciting than the monochromatic images that are currently being produced...

Endo's senses unconsciously touched upon the words blaring from the program as he meditated on the young boy's words. He reflexively reached out to switch the dial to off to further tend to his thoughts. In that moment, the idea of beef was dead to him. The grainy texture and monochromatic flavor melded with the whir of the radio signal and faded away, leaving only the sizzle of the batter forming in the iron molds behind him.

Is this guy going to develop Kobe beef or something since a ten-year-old ragged on him.

"Maybe it is time to move on from radio," Endo conceded. "Come back next week, and i'll have something different."
This is good, I feel the sense of movement from old to new both in the chef and in the technology on the radio.

The curiosity that Masao had been concealing earlier now radiated outwards from his eyes as he spoke. "Oh, like what, mister Endo?"

"You'll have to solve the mystery," Endo said, boldly. "That's what fun is, isn't it?" He had ideas to workshop. Innovations often took time, but once the ball was rolling, it was likely to gain momentum. He looked back to the spherical molds in the kitchen, then to Masao who had risen from his seat and turned to leave.

"Next will be the first time, so be sure to come back," he yelled to the boy.

"See you next week, mister Endo."

The first televisions wouldn't hit their neck of the woods for a half-dozen more years or so, thus the dumplings came to be served in batches of two rows of three each. One for each year in waiting spent to finally leave the radio behind.

Sorry, it’s a bit too obscure what the innovation is. I understand that the chef invented something, but I can’t figure it out from context. I mean, I know it’s takoyaki from the Endo reference and the ‘ball was rolling’ (that’s a great hint), but I don’t know that the CRT dates line up. Maybe they do, and it’s just bad research on my part.

Maybe if it was more a story about trying to please the tyke with various foods or if it tied in more with the development of TV and you saw them grow side by side that would be very near. Iterations and innovation in steps with both what the chef is doing and what the radio broadcasts are explaining. I guess I’m struggling to see the correlation and I think you tried to hide the takoyaki result a little too much.

Still, I like the vibe, and a kid talking to a stall vendor as the radio plays news of a true world changing event is neat.


The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 585 Submission

flash: A Shoe Addict's Christmas

Toe the Line
1195 Words

Cailin walked into Harper’s Department Store a smart, confident woman. Her hair was coifed properly, her dress was pressed into lines that would cut an addict. Most importantly, her shoes were en pointe.

Step into Harper’s and one of two things happen—you’re asked if you’re in the right place and redirected to Macy’s, or you’re recognized and whisked away to the real store. The shop where all the actual business happens. He said, “Hello, madam. I shall be your . . . ” There was a long pause for effect. He knew exactly the word he intended as he drew it out into a five syllable word that sent a shiver up Cailin’s spine: “Concierge.”

When you follow Cailin’s Insta you’ll know that she is privileged, but grounded. Cailen respects and understands from whence she came. She has the typical foibles, she feels she’s a Candice Cameron in a Reese Witherspoon world (and you’d be a fool to deny Legally Blonde as having one of the best messages ever committed to film).

Embrace your insecurities, but use them to become a queen. If you have something no one else has, share it. Cailin knew her feet were perfection. Farragamo molded stilettos to her impossibly high arches, Tori Burch took her heelprint for miller pavés. When Callum offered a shoe and more demanded than asked, “Try this on.” Cailin withered beneath his smoldering gaze.

He slid her ‘out-and-about’ Manolo off, and set it to rest on the velvet pad, fulfilling its purpose for the first time today. Cailin blinked rapidly and felt a wave of melancholy wash over her as he slid the shoe on. The exaltation of something completely new and the pang of regret that she never experienced this before. It was stable and concrete but felt like nothing at all—solid air.

They must have expected such a response, since it was no mere bench or chair, but a Casa Padrino circular daybed that Cailin rested on for the fitting, and she sunk back and stretched her arms above her head. Callum bowed his head and waited.

Cailin regained her sense, and rose to meet Callum’s ice blue gaze. She said, “I must know the designer.”

“They wish to remain anonymous, madam.”

“I’ll take them, of course, and any more you have.”

“It’s the only pair. They were made for you.”

“Without measurements? Without a molyd? How—” Cailin broke off, realized that the one-way glass that made the day wall was dark save the pink hue of the sodium street lights. “What, how long have I been here?”

“Madam, you’ve been here for some time, but only as long as was needed.”

She ran to the emergency exit and rattled the crash bar. It proffered no escape. She spun and her pocket book was still on the couch, Callum between her and the pepper spray. He held up his hands, palms wide with passivity. “Be calm, I don’t have any intentions save to show you what you can be.”

That was more sinister than anything her step-father ever said. Even though she wore shoes that could take her a thousand miles, she had nowhere to run. She lunged forward, and he didn’t flinch. He remained on one knee, arms raised as she skittered around him and finally grabbed her purse.

“Cailin,” he said. It was the first time he used her name, and she never volunteered it. “I’m going to stand, we don’t have long, but I think you’ll want to see what I need to show you.”

“That doesn’t sound very reassuring.”

Callum rose, and walked calmly to the back rooms of the store. His back was an open target if Cailin could find a weapon. He opened the staff door and stood, waiting in front of the void. He nodded towards it.

Curiosity was compelling, and she aimed the canister of Mace at his face as she edged around him and looked around the corner. It was a shoemaker’s workshop. Cobbling? That’s what they called it, right? She saw the mannequin feet molds and hobnails and hammers and clamps and scraps of fabric and leather.

She never considered what was behind the secret doors on 5th Avenue, but supposed this made sense. Then she felt glimpses of familiarity, and finally evidence: there on the desk was a framed photo of her and her sister. “What is this?” She spun, a whirlwind in action and tone and headspace.

Callum still posed replete with rapprochement. “It’s you. Or it could be. It might be. It will be.”

She surveyed the room again. It was the sub=basement of their Brooklyn brownstone. She both recognized it and didn’t. She hadn’t spent much time in that house. But she knew it was hers. She wandered through the racks, and fingered needle nosed pliers and spun the dials on a sewing machine she had no idea how to use. Could she make shoes? Would she? She looked down at her hands, and wondered if the bimonthly trips to LA for a manicure and polish by Britney Tokyo would suddenly be low on her priority list.

She looked to the workbench. There half-finished was a shoe. And she understood it was a shoe she was wearing at this very moment. If she could accomplish that, surpass all the heroes she held in vaunted company. . . .

“I’ll do it. I want it.”

“I knew you would.”

“But what is it? This shoe?” She plead, as she lifted the mold.

“The endeavor of a craftsperson, an artist, is to find the perfect medium. That will be part of your struggle. I can’t help you with that. I can only show you your potential. You must find the rest yourself. It’s late. You should sleep.”

Cailin felt drowsy. She could use a few minutes on the Casa Padrino. “Just a quick nap,” she said as she laid down. “Not too long.”

She woke in her own bed. Michael was at the computer screens looking at financial graphs from the Nikkei for who knows how long. As she roused and stumbled barefoot to the bathroom, he half-mumbled, tapping on the touchscreens, “Don’t forget, we have your sister’s thing today.”

There were a sea of phones held high as recordings and livestreams went out into the world. Madison brought her sister Cailin up to the backyard dias as she made the announcement and tapped to change the projector feed. The swirl of a sonogram. Oohs and awws and light clapping from the supplicants.

She said, perhaps to the cameras, “Yes, my dears. I will be having a baby. My journey is yours. But there’s one person I don’t want to go on this journey without. My sister. And I don’t want to put you on the spot, but we’ve been through so much together that I want you to be a big part of it. I want you to choose name of my baby.”

Madison’s beau met Cailin’s gaze and smiled. Madison nodded.

Cailin looked at the sonogram projected high on the screen then she smiled too. “It’s an unconventional name, but I think you’ll like it.”

“Go on then, announce it to our followers.”


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