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The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

DQ or loss or whatevs, I haven't written anything in a spell. I know this is way late and I didn't sign up, but I have a weird schedule in which I never know if I have time on the weekends to tippity-tap a tale, and I want to get back in. At your mercies.

Ceramics are Fragile
949 words

I don’t claim no strength, except maybe the kind to put up with family.

When Gramma said Jimmy was a ghost, we all believed it. But he was alive and well and working at his car dealership in North Carolina like a good ol’ boy should. He had liver trouble as a tyke, back in those days (the nineteen fifties) when little boys were little boys and that was the end of it, except that little boys in those days were dressed up in dressing gowns that made them seem more like ghosts than people. It was pretty easy to intimate that he was dead and gone, even though he was right there in the pavilion saying, ‘Hello, I’m not dead. And I have a good deal on a Hyundai.’

It was still a fair few hours before Lilibet realised he was still kicking. They all love a good misery when they ain’t got one, and there was always something more to Uncle Jimmy that those Presbyterians never let on. I still dunno, but I'm pretty sure.

Marco was at the beach, down in the Outer Banks, nephew to some and bro to me, practically trading places with Uncle Jimmy so he wasn’t here to back me up. Lilibet might have been more credulous since Marco can’t keep a straight face on any of that, but I swear it’s true when Pap gave the blessing and said, “Jesus, please come into our mouths and nourish our bodies with your spirit.”

Cuz Lilibet wasn’t one of us, one of the pavilion people. You see them hanging out by the lake. The ones who rent the open air gazebo with not quite enough electrics for all the crock pots, arguing about the compost toilets. The ones who inevitably have the guy with a fishing license safety pinned to his mesh hat until the ranger comes around and says this ain’t a fishing lake, it’s purely for conservation and there’s a big kerfuffle. Until, o’course, he sees who’s manning the grill.

Nah, Lilibet was a different kinda strength. I stood there in the bathroom, naked. A little fatter than I used to be, a little sadder than I used to be. The full length mirror stood across from the tub, marched next to the sink, and the sink was crooked. The whole floor was crooked, really. But it was super obvious the way the caulking line ran across the tiles of the wall. And the toothbrush holder was green with corrosion. It never seemed to matter how hard I scrubbed it.

That’s all distraction, and always was. Every time I looked in that mirror, and I might do some Soderbergh faces and act the goof, but it was never long before I collapsed on the cold, crooked tiles and sobbed.

And Lilibet would come in and I’d grab her freckled leg like a crutch and tears were freckles and freckles were tears. She’d tell me of the things I told her. Pap went looking for Peeps, the marshmallow candy, but he called them PeePees, so he asked the stocker at the grocery store, “My wife is really craving peepee, do you have any peepees?” And on any given day that might do it.

But that story’s tainted now cuz the day I told it to her, Uncle Bill went bananas on the maintenance guy in Gramma and Pap’s condo because the rheostat was too hot and he wouldn’t grasp that it was supposed to be that way. It was just the dimmer for their dining room ceiling fan, and it was warm to the touch, nothing major. The guy was probably younger than me at the time. Some college-age-something, picking up odd hours doing maintenance at an old folks’ community. But let’s not argue with the extra from Sons of Anarchy shouting about his EE degree.

OK dude

Nah, distraction is all there was. What else is there? Lilibet would have to stretch and she’d sound like Gramma as she untwisted her legs from under me. And she’d unfurl them stems, shaded beautiful bark, over my broken-out shoulders and I’d wonder if that was poison ivy from working in the yards, both Pap’s and Mom’s. I never really got it before, but it was itchy as a spitchy. Around my ankles, too.

Aunt Jane’s son manned the grill, he had aneurysms as a kid and was lucky to be alive. Cousin Frank, I guess. Heir to a concrete dynasty now that Big Frank kicked the bucket. If you ever rode on those highway test patterns where it felt like the road was going to shake your car apart, that was them. Grooved pavement. It never amounted to much but you got somewheres to focus your ire.

Gramma broke her hip and got dementia and is in hospice, and I don't know if I have the capacity. And Mom is just relieved. Pap is blind as a bat and I think I’m going the same way, but I look up now, and there’s a face of complete understanding, and a face of complete mystery. But dimples for days. We didn’t last long. Nothing to begrudge there. A time and a place and a love and a family for a time. That’s all you really want. One Lily before is fades out of your life.

I did a little spying and Lilibet is doing OK, Singing pro in Philly and probably, actually, more than OK.

Uncle Jimmy still plays coy but since Uncle Dan lost his leg he’s been more forthcoming. So much rides on the matriarch just effing off into oblivion. Lil’ Frank still does the annual cookout, but his name is Matt. It always was.


The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

number me pls

(and thank you critter with fast crits)

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

573: 11th Birthday Bash

Week319: Magical Girl Fiction
Flash: Vampires are Alive!

Sun Salutations at Dusk
1775 words.
Title not bolded cuz I am a reprobate

The loudspeakers blared. “Duty calls, cadets. The night is dangerous. Only you stand between the waking world and ultimate peril.” Asahi was already awake, in the kitchen on her assigned shift. It was twelve percent gluten. She preferred six percent, since it made a softer milk bread, and there wasn’t any all-purpose flour to mix in as a balance. Her mouth went all Charlie Brown and a sweat drop floated from her forehead as she struggled to knead the dough, knowing the girls would complain about the crusty loaves.

But breakfast was the most important meal of the day, even if it happened as the sun went down. Important work was ahead. Chizuki sauntered in, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and dragged the carton of eggs from the fridge. Asahi heard one plop-crack on the tile but didn’t say anything. Chizu was her roommate—and probably the strongest member of the team.

She cracked the eggs into a cold skillet and some were clearly more shell than yolk. Not that that mattered, Chizu stirred the sunnyside ups into half scrambled streaks. Some things are worth doing well, so Asahi put her concentration into the dough instead of that battlefield showboat. It was finally fine and stretched to the membrane of a bat’s wing. Beautiful, for all the irony.

And when the cafeteria tables were set and seated, there was a rousing round of “great eggs, mmmm” and “this bread’s too crusty” and Asahi wondered if they were jealous because she got to room with the superstar / worst roommate. They didn’t have to smell her morning (evening) farts and musty piles of clothes dropped like landmines around the changing closet. Nah, they just saw the hero.

But now breakfast was done and the mission was to go take out some vamps. Reavers, they called themselves, this time. The Master strode down the center of the cafeteria and up to the briefing dias. If he gave to look at anyone behind the rainbow mirror of his wraparound shades, Asahi couldn’t tell.

“Acolytes,” he said, “You may have heard that Sengoku province has a problem. The rumors are true. Reavers lurk in the abandoned warehouse, luring innocents into decadence and decay. Rout out the malfeasance. Only you, my Sisters of the Sun, can bring an end to THEIR EVIL!”

There were awestruck utterances all around. And Asahi knew it would be a long night. She nodded her head to Chizuki, but all she said was, “These eggs suck.”

Some people wonder about fair fights and honorable duels, but that’s nonsense. To win, you have to take every advantage. Nevermind our own powers, monsters have abilities you never dreamed of. So we use stealth and bombard the enemy with numbers. The changing closet is more literal than you think. Lock yourself inside and recite the mantra.

Embolden us as One
Strength of Daylight
To overcome the Night
I am a Sister of the Sun

There’s the rush and the spin and the armor just seems to fly onto you. Asahi felt it every time, and as she flipped her battle-visor down, she forgot the breakfast drama. It was time to take down some Reavers.

The warehouse was dark, but even from the street, Asahi felt the thumping pulse of bass. Music only a true demon could love, but it pulsed with her heartbeat.

They breached the unattended door and fingersigned down the steps, precision and smooth pace, alert to every vantage but there was no resistance. These vamps were careless. They always believed no one could touch them.

A cold fog filled the place, and Asahi saw the highlights of Chizuki’s armor glow under the UV blacklights as she lead point. She was glorious in her element, flicking silent signals to the team and ensuring every hazard didn’t turn into a killzone. Once the vamps knew we were there, they would surely unleash hell.

And then, it was like a dream. Marched right into their trap. A thousand of them rallied in a sadistic ritual. Arms flailing and feet stomping, wall-to-wall putrid flesh. Asahi froze, but Chizuki kept her calm. “Sisters,” she shouted, “Shed some light!”

The Sisters obeyed, and the fireworks were spectacular. Grunge turned into pop. The filthy discotheque was at once a Tony Bennett concert (minus Gaga, but also RIP), and BiDO leapt down from the stage to confront Chizuki.

“So, you want to put an end to us? You think you—you—can stop us? We are the Reavers, and we will have your souls!”

At this the Sisters roused the blessings of the sun and light exploded all around. Crash Boom Bang is the worst Roxette (RIP) album but still had enough bangers to make the point.

The whips and the nenes flowed freely. You wanna ghostride what? That’s right. It’s the whip. Chain linked and silver. Mebbe you saw the outline of Pitbull’s wang in those cotton pants. What everyone else saw was the homage to Michael, flipping the fedora and nodding to the crowd.. Asahi moonwalked over a couple of those vamps like nothing ever mattered. Chizuki was the star, Taytay in her heyday. Flipped chairs and swung legs like a Victoria’s Secret supermodel on the drugs. So many hats flipping everywhere, and every one a weapon more than an accessory, but stylish they were. And none of those Reavers could compete.

A life devoid of satisfaction. Dance poorly and not contribute to the greater good; that was the mindset of a Reaver. Why they wanted to live that way was beyond Asahi. Chizuki didn’t care. Cave skulls, look good, end of story. It worked.

These vamps had no chance.

There ain’t no good cops, first and foremost. If you say well, maybe …. you’re wrong. But having a dance party is illegal so them friggin warehouse loft toffs can have a quiet night is what it’s really all about. Shake your body, move your body. Get up and dance. Yeah, it’s primal. Primal. Primal. Yeah, it’s primal. Primal. Dancing is in your blood. You mebbe never found the right beat, but you know there’s something in you that makes you get up and dance. Makes you want to seek out the rave. And we’re Ravers. Get the fuggin glowsticks and shake yer rear end.Check yerself, show me what you wanna do. Ludacris don’t care about getting the lyrics right if you got a vibe. About a Boy kid grew up to be Beast in the X-Men proves the point. Live it.

Listen to your heart, cuz it’s calling for you (Roxette, RIP), and Chop-Block tells me that the cops are probably going to raid tonight. I ask why and am returned with a shrug. It’s a fair enough answer. No reason why is as good as any.

And as we’re goofing on the details and watching the crowd be as blissful as can be, considering the outside world is a hash of poo poo and rotten potatoes, the cops come busting in. Crash, Bang, Boom. Flash grenades and tear gas. They want blood to pour from our eyes and they get it. Like they want us to be the vampires of auld. We don’t fit the mould of what they want. And yet they’re the ones up all night trying to gently caress over kids who are probably just like them.

And I see the foxiest of the foxy, Gal Godot poo poo, she’s tossing flashbangs and the Valkyries are all over the place. God loving I hate them but why do they look like that? Enemy, enemy, enemy, enemy, enemy, enemy. Yes, no, enemy. Fug em, enemy. Yes, enemy. I won’t be swayed. If you have to put a face on war crimes, then make it a beautiful one. I know we’re not technically at war, and that’s the crux. I’m just housing the homeless in a warehouse that doesn’t belong to me. An abandoned warehouse. A roof with, really, no owner. A roof that exists. On paper, sure, they’re some corpos who got the deed. But c’mon. Nobody using it but peeps who need it.

And I’m back to the flashbangs. Half my tribe is blinded, the other half don’t know what to do. They have their visors down, so you can’t even look any of them in their gorgeous violet eyes.

They take us down cuz we ain’t going to fight. It’s a cause, and no body understands how that works. It’s a cause no body cares about neither, cuz we ain’t nothin. Just homeless fuckos in their eyes.

And I will one hundred percent blather on about that since I’ve been there, and I ain’t no NPC. I feel it between my eyes when some sun sorcerer comes in and thinks they’re doing the lord’s work by throwing my folk in the cooler.
Yet, whaddamI supposed to do? I got a thousand kiddos brutalized by flashbang grenades and tear gas and half of them that don’t escape are zip tied ta lighting rigs and speaker poles. If there’s anything that is anything it’s that these fuggos will wreck us for no reason. Or at least, reasons nobody but them understand.

Fuggin sun sorcerers will always have the upper hand since they got the state behind them. I just want to dance.

Asahi woke with all the bluster she could muster, just a groan and an eye-roll over to Chizuki, sawing logs with one leg flopped out of bed. Waking as the sun sets was not her preference, and she envied her dormmate who still slept like the dead.

The room was basically a four by five (in metres), larger than most prison cells by a schosh, and definitely roomier than a coffin, if it weren’t for all the stuff wedged into the claustrophobia. Beds, study desks, a TV/VCR combo on a dusty stand, all packed around the changing closet.

A literal changing closet, like, the transformation type. Not just clothes but body and soul. And that’s the crux of the think too hard about it. Did Asahi actually change when she ‘changed?’

She wondered if anybody else on the floor had those thoughts, but maybe it was just the disruption of schedule that made her wonky. She was one with the morning. The air smelled sweeter with the first rays of light, before the world rose. Yet, it was her duty to give that up to take down the latest nest of vamps. Reavers, they called themselves, this time.

Order will prevail.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

fbow, in

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Submission--Week 574: drat Dirty Apes!

777 Blub

“Blub blub.”



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⇥⇥ Blub.


The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

In but also

Week 575 Submission

Beginnings and Endings and Naming Conventions
998 Words

Grind. The swirl of heat made me doze. My fingers caught in the spool and if they weren’t already calloused to stone, it would have torn the flesh right off. But it brought me out of the daze and the damage was done.

Spike in the snakepit, where the main ropes ran the masts and the slack was enough, just enough, that a loop dropped to the ground, and when I woke, the tension snapped back. It caught his leg and flipped him upside down.

Well, most of him flipped upside down. I saw the blues and yellows of the rigging ropes running straight and parallel through the pulleys, order within the chaos of his fleshy mess. His leg crinkled like the jigsaw of a Ren and Stimpy bit.

Disassociate and do. Make a joke out of it.

Alastair was at the helm and abandoned post to wake the Skip. It was calm seas. Skeleton on deck. Rest for the rest. Skip was on the radio trying to raise the mainland. It seems like that’s not the first step, but it was. A heli would be hours out. SOS first, then untangle, unmangle.

I loosened all the winches I could. Three aside, two for each sail, I didn’t know what was what. Spike was still wrapped around the steel bars of his prison.

Alastair shouted, it wasn’t much. I subsumed Spike’s role, forewent the harness and just monkeyed my way out. Hell, forgot the actual spike to release the sail clips. Wind starts picking up. The rocking splash is in my face. I can already feel my knees bruising where they’re locked together.

Physics be damned. I wrested the carabiner out and around the mast ring, and the sail fluttered loose. Spike dropped in a clump, slack rope still heavy, piled on top of him.

The Skip and Alastair and the rest were gathered around now. Marla had the most first aid training, and was trying to splint his Greenstick femur even though there wasn’t really enough room in the pit and everybody was scared to move him.

I realized now that I was barely barrel of monkeying on the jib. There was still enough momentum that if I dropped, I’d be lost at sea. It might be for the best. Disappear from the disaster. Disappear from the world. No one would ever have to remember. Twenty knots and six feet under.

But I slimed my way back, and nobody really knew what happened. Alastair was as drowsy and bored as I was when “events occurred”.

The heli hovered and there’s no barrier to discourse when the medic dropped down a rope with his triage board and saw. The faces of the world meet and there’s a universal language. He just said “gently caress” in plain English.

Spike rolls up in Cape Town, and his cast seems too large for him as he bandies about in his wheel chair. It’s against doctor’s orders, but he’s had a pint or five. I sat on the quay sulking.

Skip mentions Good Hope in the morning, and he’s trying to cheer me up. He doesn’t know the half of it. But I say sure. We see ostriches and the van stops for an hour cuz baboons won’t get out of the road.

Fog rolls through the curly-cue of the cape like candy floss. The water is bluer than anything I’ve seen. It’s not just a round horn, there are inlets everywhere and the road snakes through the mountains in a pattern reminiscent of--hmm.

A hyrax comes right up to me and nibbles at my shoelaces. It’s maybe the cutest thing I’ve seen. The edge of the world is two hundred meters down, and it’s psychedelic in its primary colors.

This is Spike. We call him that cuz he spikes the cleats. He’s brave enough to shimmy out the jib and unlock the sail.

Skip had a heavy Irish accent.

Any of yall match his courage?

It was something hearing a y’all in that accent, maybe affected for us puddle jumpers. TIna called me out immediately when I landed in the Philly office for being a yinzer.

In for a penny, I shot my hand into the grey sky. We were in the Southampton port. I could see France on the misty horizon, just a short ferry away. Could probably swim it. Maybe I should have. I think about that every now and again.

I was strapped into the harness, upside down on the boom, out to clip the sail onto a steel ring that could fit around my neck. The yacht metronomed in the froth, the seas were already wild. Hanging there, knit cap skimming the water one second, then, thirty feet in the air. Pretty simple job to slap the carabiner around the ring and shimmy back. Nerves were the enemy. Once it locks though, under tension, you gotta use a hammer and a steel bar like a chisel to pop it back open. Spike.

It was a 72’ racing yacht. Built for speed. Hammocks instead of beds. Personal kit could max weigh a kilo. Most people brought chocolate and sunscreen, not quite enough to trip around the world. A hundred fifty days, give or take. Party in Boston, party in Cape Town, the rest was grind. Measure the tack to the wake. Two four seven.

Grind is literally grind. Crank winches / adjust sails. By the South Seas, Amber was stubborn and seasick. Relegated to the galley where the rocking wasn’t so bad, but the kettle still slid across the counter like bar shuffleboard. Her camera was already effed from salt spray. Not that there was anything to even see but the shimmer of sun on sea. But so much art lost. Mirages. Fake islands and fake mainland and fake restaurants, through the lens everything is fake.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you


The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 576 Submission - Travel and Travel

City: Istanbul, Turkey
book: The Rings of Saturn, by W.G. Sebald

Collisional Cascading

If ever there were rings around the Earth, they were absorbed by the formation of the moon. One moon to shield us from cosmic horror. One moon large enough to make life possible. We fill the skies between us and it with the junk of humanity, and soon, we’ll reach an equilibrium where we will be locked on Terra and the universe will be separated from us. The disease is called Kessler Syndrome, but that’s just a name.

I sat on the veranda of the Turkish coffee shop and went to pour the cezve for a refill when the boy stopped me. It was his job. A boy of thirteen with a job. I remember my first job picking strawberries at fourteen. By my parents’ decree it would have been earlier if the law allowed. Now, I don’t know. This same child could be working on an auto assembly line or carving pig carcasses until he teeters into the abyss. Is he lucky just pouring coffee?

I asked him, “Is this your nature?” and naturally, he didn’t know how to respond. He was just a boy. I didn’t make eye contact. Instead, I stared at his feet. Crocs: the petroleum amalgamate plastic, the industry that sustains and destroys us; the poison lifeblood.

The Crocs were split in the front, intentionally. Little bits cut out where this boy had done it intentionally, where the intentionality was dire and off-putting. Crocs trimmed and cut so his toenails could comfortably grow, large and in charge. I heard them clack on the paving stones as he approached. I could only ask, “Where do you get your shoes?”

I sat outside the cafe, looking across the Bosporus, where the hill of antiquity’s earthenware jostled for position with the slivers of modern glass ghosts.They reflected blue, though the sky was anything but. The water of the strait, maybe still.

Turkish coffee is a subject. When I was a someone, I wasn’t anyone. At the New Year’s Party, Aldona took pity on my sad visage as the clock struck down and kissed me. Lithuania has the same tradition of brewed and unfiltered coffee, perhaps without the cardamom. When I went to her grandmother’s apartment, we fought about the proper rolling of pierogies and the sparks were a firework of old-country magic.

I was in the cafe, in Turkey, to write my next hagiography of bucolic filth. It was an expectation. I glanced down the alley, where there was still the rubble of a bombing. And I didn’t know who or what or why the explosion happened. It was a spectre of chaos, and chaos is the world, the life I never asked for.

My agenda was to head to Batman. It was a day and then some’s walk. ‘Walking to Batman’ conjures the impossible. But it’s just a city. In fact, it would confound Batman with its lack of disseminated cameras and fascism. I sat in this cafe, the boy with foot-long toenails hovering about me, and pondered the back-fence chatter of the western world.

For six years running, I’ve thrown the turkey bones of my Thanksgiving feast out between the pine trees, and I’ve never been caught. It’s square next to the garden, where we grow stringers and tomatoes and cucumbers and squash as big as a newborn. So it means that whatever souls are out there suffering in the snow have completely consumed the carcass, bones and all, by the first thaw. Their desperate hunger is my luck.

It’s a statement of Thanksgiving and desperation, and I sit in my climate controlled abode and feel the dominance of my thumbs. That’s all there ever was. When I made the ‘mistake’ of getting high with my mother-in-law, I felt no better proof that there was no god when her “b-f-f” transformed into a chimpanzee and climbed on the table, gumming the fat plastic straw dipping into the squeeze bottle of mt. dew and vodka.

Batman was where the museum resided. Like history, a museum is transitory. It housed the oldest board game in the world. An odd assortment of pieces conjectured in the modern day into ‘dogs and pigs.” They are, in truth, a bunch of cones and D&D dice shapes that could be anything. But we, of modern times, can’t conceive of the imagination of the elder ages. So they are dogs

and pigs. Perhaps, there are a few piggidly shapes. In a thousand years’ time with a lost language and a lost culture, what would be chess? A series of horses and dildos, some more and some less painful.

It may be a predecessor or an offshoot of an Egyptian game, but that peg in grid system of Senet has its own determination. The board of sixty-four is Turkish. I was here, enjoying the caffeine and ambience, in part because of Erasmus+. And I could scarcely believe the ‘eff-plus’ energy of the program. The strength of the modern world is a girdle of misinformation.

On top of the highest mountain is a cone where no snow sits. The wind is more powerful than the downward thrust of flake and silt. Barren stone is the ultimate goal of all the thrill seekers who want to reach that summit.

Erasmus was a Catholic priest who came to the monastery life when his parents died from the Plague. While he was devout, he never embraced asceticism. His vow of poverty was by fiat, his patrons allowed him to travel the world. The evangelist who preaches the sermon of ‘do whatever you want, I don’t care,’ and like all messages, it was co-opted by systems beyond their ken.

Aldona’s boyfriend was a Joe, both in name and plenitude. She kissed me, and I still, well after the towers fell, hear the guttural arguments about her name. Uhl-dunn-a is about the closest I can recreate. But it’s still not quite right. It doesn’t matter where you put the hyphens, it will never be right. A half-remembrance of a woman from my youth is not a representation of a person at all; it’s at best, a story.

The stroll from Istanbul to Batman ran along the same rustic roads from my childhood, though not a wooded country side, it was a barren sandy waste; the desolation was the same. Here and there, like as a ten-year-old notes the day-glo hunter orange signs of gas well trails and ‘no deer hunting’, there were the same, but the ten-year-olds of the Turkish countryside would see “Land Mines, No Encroachment.”

It was such a strange word of caution. But it is, I suppose, human nature, to creep like fungus across the land, taking every morsel available and subsuming it into itself. Encroach as if it’s destined fate.

Mother never made a turkey stuffing with mushrooms. Always stale Wonderbread with celery, and two bullion cubes regardless of size. Nothing else. Perhaps that explains the wonderment of Old Bay when any old tongue gets a taste of salt.

The coffee shop was right on the beach, but it was a beach of pebble and outcropping, not one for lounging and sunbathing. Twenty feet from the water was a concrete rim that held the water from the people and the people from the water. But you move any camera far enough back and it appears pristine. In 1988, Francys Arsentiev was dubbed the Sleeping Beauty of Everest because he looked so serene. His body has yet to be recovered.

Neverminding Anansi wisdom is easy when all of history is frozen in a staid frieze of a stolen diorama in the British Museum. A spider’s web fills every unattended corner like acoustic bass.

The Batman museum was more an open pit of archaeology than a Met with guides in suit and tie.There were no polished granite staircases and no paintings of ‘masters’ gilding the walls. If you came here you came for the forty tiny pieces of stone.

In twenty-twenty the US state department recognized the natural pronunciation of Türkiye. It took a long time and more desert than I care for to lay my eyes on Göbekli Tepe, but I see the past and present and the future when I witness the strength of the megaliths uncovered in the sand.

As I sip my coffee, I can’t see the Hagia Sophia from where I am. If I walked down the block past the westernized shops of Nordstrom's and Macy’s and Manolo Blahnik, I would see the minarets. I did just such a thing. I couldn’t hear the call to prayer from across the water, but I saw the bells ringing.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

FlippinPageman posted:

Week 575 Crits: Part 1

ty critter, appreciate it.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 577 - Eine Kleine

I read and write at night. I want to feel the past-midnight vibe. There's a lot that goes on after the lights are out, if you want to be a bit erotic, go for it. I don't necessarily want explicit descriptions, but if the language is charged, then yes. Don't feel constrained by that, tho, crime and fun and vampires and normal things also happen after sundown. I worked graveyard in an office for many years so you can touch on that. It's decidedly different but the same as a 9-5. Gimme the night.

If you want a flash, I'll give you a cliché trip-hop or post-rock song that I listen to as I write.
Triple edit: 1750 words, but if you're on a tear, then keep going. Don't feel like you have to edit yourself down to meet an arbitrary constraint. If you need the number then that's what it is.

E: Loser is not guaranteed and there may not be one. If everybody writes good, then I'm pleased

No signup cut off. Deadline is Sunday, August 27, at Midnight ET. The usual. I'll update with Kiwi and Europe time once I figure it out
06:59AM August 27 Greenwich mean time
05:59PM on Monday, August 28, 2023 in Melbourne
7:59PM on Monday, August 28, 2023 in Wellington

(note: I think I bungled the times comparisons, so there will be a little flex in the deadline)
thanks/blame rohan for the time calculator
time zone comparison calculator

Toaster Beef - a choice cut of Mogwai

derp - an unexpected Mazzy Star (or not)
[not requested, but accidentally delivered]

Thranguy - definitely not an abandoned Radiohead b-side

Chairchucker - a teardrop is not always cum but sometimes
fight me if ? ain't a trippy band

Fat Jesus - Sour is only one of the five taste buds

Vinny Possum - is anybody out there?

TheMackening - doggos [freebie, not requested]

Chernobyl Princess - a descending staircase still leads to heaven

Antivehicular - lucky ducky

Green Wing - [not requested freeb] - Under the Bridge recontextualized

My Shark Waifu - [freeb] - moons over my hammy
e: some strobing lights at the end of this video

Tyrannosaurus - shhh

curlingiron :toxx: - hello neighbours - it aint trip nor post but i respect the commitment and if any one else wants to flip the bird, more power to them
i dunno, it was an inscrutable joke just for me, so this is the vid

Slightly Lions - under the wire?

BaldDwarfOnPCP - entering the gauntlet

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 14:12 on Aug 27, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Toaster Beef posted:

In, and I'll take a flash. Thanks!

e: if you want Jamiroquai I'll allow it.

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 09:32 on Aug 22, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

whoops, you are not to be inspired by this song that I love

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 06:07 on Aug 22, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Thranguy posted:

In and flash

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

go on then

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Fat Jesus posted:

In, and flash.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Vinny Possum posted:

In, I'll take a flash

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

TheMackening posted:

In! I’m excited, this is my first Thunderdome.
Free to use or not:
e: look up the original video if you want. It has doggies in peril

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 17:41 on Aug 22, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you


The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 19:34 on Aug 23, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

[freeb] - some strobing lights at the end of this video, from about 4:00-4:30 please take care

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 21:23 on Aug 24, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Tyrannosaurus posted:

and a flash pls tyvm

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

curlingiron posted:

gently caress it, in :toxx:

You can give me a song if you want, but I will only be writing to this:

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Slightly Lions posted:

Squeeking In under the wire.
no wire to squeak under, friendo
mebbe this is proto shoegaze or whatev, it's night vibe

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

BaldDwarfOnPCP posted:

May I have a try?

The current prompt is a story that conveys the night. It can be a mundane graveyard shift office job, or a rave, or spooky stuff, or even a little romance. That doesn't matter so long as the vibe feels right.
Shoot for 1750 words or less, but if you go a little over, that's OK.
Take this song as inspiration, but if you have an idea or a song you think fits your story better, then cool.

Note: it's under 24 hours until the submission deadline, so you better get a move on. Midnight EST, or you can scroll back a page to find some more deadlines if you're on the other side of the world.

And though I'm editing this, I want to remind you that once you post your story, you are not allowed to edit it, so if you catch typos or what ever, too bad. I'm not judgy about typos, but sometimes people are. but NO REVISIONS ONCE YOU POST is part of the game

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 06:52 on Aug 27, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Submissions closed.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 577 Eine Kline Results

Lots of entries

Green Wing:thumbsdown:

There were really only two out-and-out (or in-and-out) smutty scenes in the entire 22000 words, and only one other over the pants and interrupted hand action. I guess that's . . . restraint.

I didn't find anything truly incoherent or off-putting so I'm not posting a loser. One lacked any real conflict and was too focused on the gimmick and the joke to really make a pleasant read, but I can see the effort. If you're Scottish you should probably brawl them:

Fat Jesus - DM

I'd be remiss to say go for smut and not reward at least one:

curlingiron - HM
ya put it out there

I was on the fence about delivering too many HMs, but fuk it.
Slightly Lions - HM
fun, clear demon stomping action, it's a genre piece that works, even if it wasn't a chillwave dope up and the rest are the weird ones

my vibe of truly weird and esoteric.
Antivehicular - HM
derp - HM

and coming in hot
you dropped a piece that felt like it was tailor made for me, both in style and vibe, but also there is amazing poetry in the detail of little things and internal thought. It's not perfect, but it's fantastic. whether they burn out or become a new star


is one to watch

Ascend the throne, and get the bums to hook you up with discord and the archives
winner help

summary crits by post order
I have readalong crits, so prepare for wall of text. I realize a couple might be a little sparse, sorry about that. It mostly meant I kept reading on and took it in as a whole. You should consider that a good thing, but if you want more detailed paragraph commentary, I'll rework it, so hit me up

Fat Jesus

Mashup of Outlander and The Village and a bunch
Dialogue understandable, even with the heavy accent
Seems researched well for a while, then falls off
Maybe too much of a joke/stereotypes, could have had a real conflict about superstition between a couple McK’s and maybe made it funny, but also either really hiding the twist, OR making it also real spooky

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Mountains

Straightforward scary dog story. Simple in execution, well done. Maybe a couple paragraphs could have been rearranged to build tension better, but it’s nothing major. You forgot about bears though, scary and very real. Over all pretty good


I mean, this is frankly amazing. A couple quibbles, but the style is right up my alley. And I don’t know if you lucked out and had something already that fit the prompt, but if you churned it out in a couple hours, then rat’s off to ya

Ouzo Maki
****blanked by request to hide it from outside eyeballs****

The Evil Queen

Snow White and the not evil Queen. Kind of a weird choice to have a protag who does not want any adventure and so doesn’t get it. But she meets a sexy dwarf girlfriend and lives happily ever after (in the kitchen). Flirtiness good, but probably could have helped fight the patriarchy a little better instead of leaving it up to Snow White and her boyfriend
No real complaints about the general writing though, it was pretty clean and clear.

Toaster Beef
Six Minutes at a New Jersey Diner

Trigger warning for suicide ideation

Man reminisces on a stormy night and contemplates the end
Those asides are well done, but could have put even more in. You get a good sense, even if it’s just physical description(and it’s very good description), of the diner characters, but the school friends seem like they should be more important but only one really has any detail. Combining the space with the current patrons and the old friends and making parallels could have been cool and described both at once.

sorry, your line-by-line is probably the sparsest. with my above suggestions, I didn't want to break down anything, but taken paragraph by paragraph in isolation, I think everything is well written and flows

My Shark Waifuu

Stream of consciousness with a little flirty/romantic ending, even though you might be playing with fire getting involved with a roommate. Sorry, I don’t have much to say line by line, it’s got a voice. Maybe some restructuring with tempos could have improved it though.

night thoughts

This is another one that just vibes with me on style. There are a lot of callbacks and themes running through it that payoff in the end. If I’m projecting, it’s at least dense and lyrical enough that I can easily bury any subtext I want into it..

Slightly Lions
Graveyard Shift

Grocery clerk who is just tired of all this Buffy and Sabrina poo poo. Lots of good gore descriptions, action scenes were clear. very fun. Corny demon dialogue in ALL CAPS comes with the territory. Second story that starts out like a chill weed story and goes off the rails, but in the opposite direction

Chernobyl Princess
Turn About Is Fair Play

I think the chase scene is good, and sets up a lot of worldbuilding. I might feel a little icky about casting spells to get Thomas into bed, even with a dragonlord much more powerful. If I misread the wall tapping spell, then sorry. It’s not clear if it’s a charm or protection wards. It’s a little manipulative rather than mutual, but I get that that’s the power fantasy part. Toning it down so they’re rivals instead of hunter and hunted or maybe just the word “hurt” meaning violence might have smoothed over things for me. I don’t like that so much in my sexy tales

The Last Nights of the Shepherd

Oh, this is one of the wild ones. Cool and strange, rich vs poor, morning joes vs night owls
I mean, I don’t know what else you could do, but the resolution is basically ‘we jumped em in the hallway’ the conflict, world and voice are good enough support a straightforward (uhh) conclusion in a weird world. Maybe after the rest, I just expected an even more bizarre turn

The Other Road

Ghost drifters set out to heal a sick road. It’s a great premise and great characters that’s sort of an American Gods ‘throw a bunch of mythos in the pot and shake it up.’ Problem is they don’t actually get around to healing the road, and they don’t even fight the miniboss within the text of the story, just a little subterfuge and then “we’ll be back later with a team” the end

Night Hunt

A sexed up Colin Robinson. This is also felt a little problematic, BUT it’s basically the template of a vampire story. The devil boy wasn’t coerced beyond the skills of a master pick up artist. Just got drained (both ways) at the end. It was the most straightforwardly horny, and I applaud you for that. I don’t know if this is flattering or not, but the sex reminded me of A Court of Thorns and Roses for some reason

Vinny Possum

I wear a cape. I don’t know if I told you, I wear capes. BTW, I wear a cape, it’s not my all-weather cape, but I’m wearing it. I was a little perplexed by the setting until I figured out you were making it up, but the names overlap in places with real world peoples and foods so watch that. If it was intentional, then add more joke stuff for the googlers.
The meet cute with the convenience store worker overcoming language barriers was fine, but more amusing without a the translator. political turmoil out of nowhere right at the end, so a restructuring would help bigtime.

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 23:08 on Aug 28, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 577 Read along crits by post order

Just my thoughts as I was reading through each story, and I sort of pasted my concluding thoughts at the top before the paragraph-by-paragraph, so it's not a line by line, but I tried to explain my reasoning on what I vibed with and what I didn't like. I tend to make a lot of "if I did it, this is what I would do" suggestions like, I guess a draft reader, so don't take offense, please. Or do.

:siren:Fat Jesus

First one out of the gate gets a lot of attention. A parody mix of folklore, Finnegan’s Wake, Outlander, and The Village. Scottish dialect dialogue is pretty consistent and not too tough to parse, I know that’s a sticking point for some and I’ve seen (and received) advice in TD that you shouldn’t go full brogue.

I was really with you in the story, as goofy as some of the things are, even through witnessing the Devon sassenach with a phone. But then I sort of get the sense that you’re poking fun at poor rural Scots by the end once they talk about tourists and football managers and not understanding the mysterious accent from the south.

I don’t think this was intentionally mean-spirited, after all, you spent a lot of time on dialogue and details, then throw stereotypical Scottish stuff in at other points (like the bagpipes and Irn-Bru). So how to fix that? Well, the biggest problem is, beyond a beer money fight, a lack of conflict. It could play better as comedy and as a thriller if only one character, say, Diarmid, is a true believer in the paranormal. Then you can do a quick folklore recap for the audience who isn’t familiar beyond just saying, oh that’s a bad omen, oh that’s a bad omen.

If you want a trippy and mysterious story steeped in the folklore, then reference and don’t explain. That can be cool for the reader. But you’re clearly not going for that tone. So I think you owe it to explain the significance of the white stag and be more clear about the beasties.

It can also add tension as Diarmid tries to convince the others, and say, Gordon becomes more and more paranoid seeing signs. I guess Gordon is about as close to a main character as there is. And if this is a true supernatural story, like the town is in a timewarp and after Diarmid’s warning, he tries to decipher what the hell a soda can is, then that could be interesting too. (I still don’t know what the rock in the road is supposed to be. paranoia? Poltergeists? A car?)

So I’m mixed on this one. Something’s wrong with it, and it might just need some restructuring to be both funny and have an unexpected twist.

On the night Tavish McKenzie passed from this world for want of money, he declared on his deathbed that should none cry nor lament his demise, he would return. As the dreadful news spread throughout the glen, the men of clan McKenzie gathered in the tavern lamenting their ill fortune. It were soon decided after much drink that some keening women be brought, lest the dirty old bastard actually return. Signs and portents were all about them, and the beastie had been seen again by Diarmad McKenzie.

This opening is strong, but conflicting—I have immediate sympathy for Tavish, dying from poverty and wishing no mourners; but then he becomes the villain of the piece? The beastie sounds like a different entity, but the way it’s jammed together here, it makes it seem like that’s a Tavish sighting. So maybe? I guess let’s see.

After the hat had been passed around a few dozen times they looked upon the fifteen pence the forty of them had managed, stunned by their own generosity.

This says a lot, good line.

“Me mother, she cuid do, she be a fine one ta wail.” Gordon McKenzie said, eyes affixed on the riches before them.
“Is ye mother nae ninety six?” Kennan McKenzie asked, slamming his glass upon the coffin’s lid amongst the clutter.
“Aye. She’s a guid one fer a wail, trust us, McKenzie.” All gathered McKenzie nodded knowingly.
“Och, she’ll ave tae do. Na carry th’ howfin’ bastid ou’side fer a air, so we can shut th’ windae.” Said Fergus McKenzie.
Six stout McKenzie lifted the simple pine box covered in butts, ash and spilt Glenlivet and took it outside to the freezing sleet. They put it on trestles on the gravel road, and went back inside as dog came and pissed on the trestles, a sure omen of sour times ahead.

I mean, that’s a lot of McKenzie. Unless it’s a bit, I don’t think a bunch of people with the same last name call each other by that. You could have went with first names (or more likely, family nicknames) then had the surprise of the name come later.
If they’re superstitious about the return of Tavish, then why use the coffin as a coaster? I guess it’s a bit of a nod to Finnegan’s Wake. Scrolling ahead a bit, it’s more comedic than a true tale of horror. So I think maybe just the first paragraph is out of place, and not this.
Dog meandering in the freezing sleet? I’d say just make it a chill, foggy night, or Tavish’s own dog (and only companion) that does the pissing.

Gordon McKenzie had sat his mother Cullodena McKenzie in a chair besides the grave they had drunkenly dropped the coffin in. They had dressed the old woman in black and she sat there chewing her gums, thick glasses covered in dew that she appeared not notice. She stared down at the encrusted boot sticking out of the box with it’s lid ajar, as the parson droned his usual tale of a pious life well lived. Finally done, he slapped his book together and left begrudged back to his sherry with nothing but a promise of payment to come. The crowd of two then gathered by the old woman’s side as she stared blankly at the box.

At least the parson would say, c’mon, stuff his leg in the box. And you can make a moment of it. Also, I think the vicar would be at the wake, starting early on the free drinks. Who’s is the crowd of two? It went from six pallbearers to Gordon and his mother. It’s apparent that OK, it’s Kennan, but the logistics could be made more clear, or just ignored since it also makes me ask why the other McK didn’t stick around to start scooping dirt in the hole as the reverend droned.

“Garn ma, gie a keen, oh ‘’ow ye miss ‘im, and ‘at.” Gordon said to her ear.
“Hoo’s ‘at?” she croaked.
“That be Tavish McKenzie.” Kennan said.
“At bastid?” she tried to get up. “Deid at lest! Deid at lest!” She cackled with laughter as the McKenzie’s eased her back to her chair, looking to each other as she clapped her hands and stamped her feet, screaming with triumph.
“Burn, burn, burn in hell, ye devil!” She clutched her chest and rose suddenly, falling forward into the grave with a thump.

Good sequence otherwise, just the parson pops in and out and it’s not even Vicar McKensie.
Now here’s where you can have the weather turn to sleet and up the ante.

The rain swept across the loch where Auld Cullodena was laid to rest as far as possible from where she had collapsed from grief, her great keening too much a toll. The two mourners had told the gathered astounded McKenzie of her final deed, and how she had wailed. Gordon McKenzie and his cousin Kennan had later near come to blows dividing the fifteen pence evenly, but had settled the blood feud at the tavern by buying a pence of ale and drinking half each, measuring carefully each sip.

To this point, you’ve maintained an old-fashioned feel that this could be any time in the last couple hundred years, but if they didn’t have a couple half-pennies, then this must be modern. Not knocking it, but I did say, waitaminnit. But a pence of ale is either a thimbleful that you can comment on, or this is set a while ago….

“Yer wealthy noo Gordon, kin ye mother rest.” Kennan McKenzie toasted.
“Aye, a dinnae ken if the keening worked, we done ah best. Well that’s me doon the road.” McKenzie got up, hitching his kilt.
Soon Gordon McKenzie were on his way home after midnight with the mists rising from the moors of the loch when he felt a chill. The winds had come down from Ben Lomond, and as he gathered his coat he stumbled, falling with curses into the bracken and rising unsteadily in confusion, staring with horror at the small rock that stood motionless before him. McKenzie was quite sure the rock had not been there before. He fled through the shadows of Jock McKenzie’s backyard and back to his house, firmly locking the door, as was his habit.

Ben Lomond is a little far from traditional M(a)cKenzie stomping grounds.

When Gordon McKenzie had got to the tavern the next evening, he found Kennan McKenzie sitting alone, white as a sheet.
“He’s back… me bagpipes, they’re gone! I cannae play me pipes a dawn whin ah finish mah baking!”
“Aye, he tripped me doon and I felt his cauld win oan mah bahookie.”
“Ah heard Jock McKenzie's daughter, her panties gaed missing fae th' line.” Connor McKenzie said. They all shook their red heads.
“Och, that be ‘im, clatty bastid.” Gordon McKenzie affirmed.
More McKenzie arrived, with more tales of strange goings on. A penny missing, Kennan McKenzie’s bagpipes had been found, stabbed full of holes. Connor McKenzie had found a bone in his haddock and chips. Fergus McKenzie’s sheep had gotten out. The door suddenly flung open as Diarmad McKenzie staggered to the bar in his fishing gear.
“Th' beastie is traivelin aroond th' shores o' th' loch!” He told the aghast McKenzie, reaching for the bottle.
After some drink it were soon agreed Auld Cullodena had not finished her Keening, and the ghost of Tavish McKenzie walked again, upsetting the water beastie, among other things.

Uhh, is the old ghost stealing a grand-daughter’s panties?

“I ken a woman!” Morag McKenzie announced. “A sassenach fae aff Devon, she bides in a tent nearby!” All McKenzie looked to the barmaid, then to each other. The hat went around, many times, and soon McKenzie was on her way gripping the twelve pence, first walking widdershins three times around the graveyard before she left, for Auld Tavish McKenzie had been a devil about the lasses, fathering half the village.

The dark night passed and morning finally dawned, and Morag McKenzie returned with a sassenach witch dressed in long robes with mysterious symbols embroidered in gold. The McKenzie gathered warily.
“I am told you wish to hear me sing the song of my people, dear quaint Scots folk. Your glen and loch are so beautiful, yet not on a map.” McKenzie's looked to each other, struggling to understand the witch’s tongue.
She waved her hand above her head, holding a strange black mirror, looking into it smiling as she turned her back to the McKenzie, who watched in awe. The mirror gave a tiny flash brighter than the sun, causing all McKenzie to step away in unison from the witch with shouts and gasps, shielding their eyes and avoiding her gaze, making signs to ward the Eye. But Gordon McKenzie had bravely stepped forward to confront the witch.
“Och, we wid lik' tae hear ye keen. Me mam, she tried bit it weren’t tae ‘is taste. Be crakin' if ye cuid keen let tae nicht.” Gordon McKenzie slurred.
“You mean midnight? Yes! How about on that hill?” She pointed to the graveyard. McKenzie blood ran cold as their eyes followed the witch’s red-tipped claw, pointing at the grave of Tavish McKenzie.
“Theit be a nice spot. Aye. We waant somethin’ that wull keep ‘im doon.” Gordon McKenzie gave a start as the strange sassenach witch looked at him quizzically, her once black mirror now shining as the moon.

After midnight the gathered McKenzie stood close as waves of mist drifted through the gravestones as they awaited the keening sassenach witch. They huddled in fright, hearing the sounds of an elk’s spectral call drifting across the moonlit glen.
“Tis’ the White Stag.” Keenan McKenzie said, greatly afeared. McKenzie's murmured a concerned agreement, wide eyes darting around by the light of their torches. The baleful sound slowly died away as the winds came and swirled the mists and gloom.

Fine, stag at the graveyard, but that’s a lot of different beasties swirling around. And this one is straight up called an elk’s call, so I don’t know how to interpret it as a modern something.

The sassenach keening witch appeared from the bracken, now dressed in the darkest black, and stood before the empty can of Irn-Bru that marked the empty grave of Tavish McKenzie. All gasped in fright, noting her hair matched the colour of the can, an uncanny resemblance that chilled them to the core. Cloud darkened the moon casting spectral shadows as she spread her arms and began her ghastly song.

Uh, you mentioned they’re all red haired earlier. I mean wouldn’t most of them have hair near the color of an Irn-Bru can? If you mean some electric orange and/or blue hair dye, surely they would have remarked on it upon first meeting the ‘witch?’
It really gives the game away to have a soda can here, if you held out until after the climax then the twist is a little better.

A dreadful screeching sound emanated from the keening witch, going higher and higher as McKenzie's clapped their hands to their ears in pain and alarm. Her wailing grew with their terror as they saw that her eyes made false tears, a Banshee!
“NOBODY LOOOVES MEEEEE!! NOT LIKE YOOOU DOOOO!!” The Banshee’s earsplitting shriek shattered the silence of the glen, as the brave McKenzie rushed the Banshee and tackled her to the ground before she could call forth the dead.

“Aye, she wur innocent, went straight tae th’ bottom o’ th’ loch.” Keenan McKenzie shook his head and downed his whiskey as the crowd of McKenzie did same.
“Tha water beastie, he wid hae taken her, hae tae feed him.” Gordon McKenzie reminded them. Several McKenzie’s grunted affirmation. “Be as it wur, her wailings, thay surely sent Auld Tavish back tae hell. A've nae heard sic a racket afore fae a sassenach witch.” All McKenzie nodded.
“Aye, Ah cuid thole it nae langer, th’ witch’s noise.” With that Gordon McKenzie went back to his paper, turning to the back page as Keenan McKenzie read the front from across the table. McKenzie’s listened with interest at their weekly Scotsman brought that morning by postman Padruig McKenzie.
“Och, three oot againt th’ Rangers Seturday, Robby McBobson, ‘e cannae manage.” Gordon McKenzie announced sadly to all. McKenzie’s all huffed in agreement, for McKenzie hearts were heavy that week, having lost to Hibernian 2-0 the week before.

“See, seys anither tourist missin’ near th’ loch.” Keenan McKenzie raised his eyebrows as all did same.
“Sixth this yar thay say, th' polis ur boggin'.” Connor McKenzie said.
“It’s Auld Cullodena, ah kin cop her aboot in me waters,” Morag McKenzie stated as she wiped the bar with a tartan rag, “We shoud nae hae fed her tae th' beastie.” All McKenzie murmured worriedly and made the sign.

Confused sentence, Cullodena was buried far away and I figure based on context that they’re close to the water, and I didn’t think they went far to bury Tavish—so I assume it’s the sassenach that got fed to the loch beastie. Or was this all misdirection and they’re just dumping bodies in the water? That could be its own story.

They suddenly turned in shock as Diarmad McKenzie crashed open the door, face stricken with dread and raincoat in tatters.
“Ah seen th' beastie roam agan! He's a hungert laddie!” He uttered, out of breath. All McKenzie bewailed the dire news, as a dread as dark as the moonless night descended like a wraith upon them.
“Och Aye, we’ll hae tae fin' anither keening woman.” Gordon McKenzie had made his mind and cast his eye to Morag McKenzie, her ruddy face set grim.
“I ken a woman. She bades near, fae far aff Eire.” A dark wind blew open the ajar door, sweeping a bitter cold through the tavern and into their bones. McKenzie’s passed around the hat as the beastie’s mournful cries drifted from the loch.

Blew open the ajar door? I mean if it’s a joke line fine, but it’s sandwiched in not joke description.
It feels like a good closer for a somewhat different story. The twist part should have been at the end though, and maybe not McKenzies at all. Jerry Donovan passed the paper to Allen Jenkins and nodded to the headline. “Hibernian lost two-nil. Looks like the McKenzies’ are at it again.”


You Can Take the Boy Out of the Mountains

A nice little scary story. I mean, I looked up Snarly Yow since I wasn’t familiar with it, and I guess it’s a little more eastern than my neck of the woods/mountains. And I even have a cryptid hunter friend who wrote a trash self-pub book about Chestnut Ridge, but that’s the west side of PA and WV. In all our discussions of night creepers and dogmen I don’t think he ever brought this one up. But stories of black dogs or spectral beasts are right at home whatever you call them. And I even have one of my own. I guess I’ll have to find a week to write it up.

The night advice I buy, but number one rule before talking a walk anywhere is “watch out for bears.” Anyway, I think a few adjustments for pacing and polish, but one of the better first entries I’ve seen.

Culture shock is a hard thing to overcome sometimes. Maybe years go by, and you feel settled into your new home and then something hits you. There are some things you may never get used to after leaving home.

For Billy, that was solo night activities outside. He lives in suburbia now, fairly close to two large cities. When he bought his house, there was a police officer busting people for rolling through stop signs just up the block. When Billy asked her about the neighborhood, she laughed and told him it was pretty safe. These stop sign tickets were about as rowdy as she’d ever seen it. Folks take leisurely walks through the neighborhood at all times of day and night.

Good opener until the last line here, uh in this day of Nextdoor, an after midnight leisurely walk is suspicious. But I get the tone you’re working at, and I’m interested.

It’s the strolling at night that Billy couldn’t figure. He grew up in Appalachia, and there are a few good unspoken rules back home. One of them is not to be in the woods alone at night. Another important one is you don’t look into the trees. The suburban neighborhood he lived in now was certainly not the woods, but there was a patch of woods on the backside of his property, so it felt close enough. Hell, deer came out of those woods and nibbled the grass in his backyard every day, along with the foxes and groundhogs. There was enough familiar there that he could not shake those unspoken rules, even this far from the mountains.

Why is it an unspoken? Seems like sound advice.

Of course, nothing lasts forever. That feeling did eventually start to fade. Although, he always remembered to shut all the blinds at dusk. You never really want to see what’s on the other side of the glass, out in the dark.

OK, getting freaky

It was a quiet summer night with the beginning chills of autumn whispering on the wind. The neighborhood was peaceful as usual. His partner and kids were visiting family, so Billy had the house to himself. He spent some time on the deck, relaxing. The night air was just cool enough to enjoy, so he decided to do the unthinkable and go for a walk.

You just mentioned that he’s hiding in the house with the blinds shut at night, but now chilling on the deck? Flip the order of the paragraphs, so a little paranoia with a strange noise happens, he closes the blinds alone in the house, then realizes he’s in the burbs and is being silly. That can launch the night stroll.

He did the circuit of paved trails around the area and stopped to sit at a bench near a park. From here, he could see the stars almost as well as when he was back home on top of the mountain. He sat there for some time identifying the constellations, until he was tired enough to head home. It was when he stood that he saw it. A large, black dog.

Are the trails and park what’s behind Billy’s house? Geography is a little unclear. I don’t think I would call a park behind my house just ‘the woods.’ I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Billy’s Mamaw had been a great storyteller and she loved telling folk stories that would scare the hide right off you. She had more than a few stories about black dogs. The one on the path ahead, blocking his way, fit the description of a Snarly Yow to a T. A big, shadowy dog with a red mouth, glowing eyes, and massive paws.

This is a specific name I haven’t heard before, but there are a ton of ghost and monster stories, for sure, and a lot are quite insular.

‘What the hell is that doing here?’ he thought to himself, his heart racing. He tried to glance at the path going the opposite way without taking his eyes off the dog. Of course, it was blocking his way back home. He looked back at the dog… and it was gone. Was his mind playing tricks on him? ‘I could have sworn I saw it,’ he thought with a shake of his head. He let out a slow, steading breath and started walking back home.

Around the bend of the path, and Billy heard a quiet growl from behind him. He froze, the hair on the back of his neck standing on end. The growl got a little louder. Looking over his shoulder, he saw something move in the shadows. ‘poo poo, poo poo, poo poo, poo poo,’ he cursed mentally. He was ready to bolt. He turned back to start running, and there it was, right in front of him. He backed away slowly, raising his hands.

A couple nice tension building paragraphs.

“I, uh… My Mamaw used to tell me stories of you, Snarly Yow. You’re called dog fiend, shadow beast, and black dog. I know you.” He spoke with a steadier voice than he expected. The dog stopped, cocking its head. “You’re a long way from home. You did a good job of scaring me. I know that’s what you like doin’, and you’ve sure scared the hell outta me tonight. You… you don’t actually hurt people, though. At least my Mamaw said not directly. Just, uh… don’t scare me into running off a cliff or into a broken branch, eh? You done yer job. Get on back to the mountains now, won’t ya?”

I think maybe you could internalize the “Dog fiend, shadow beast, black dog” as thoughts, since you want to explain it to the audience, but it sounds a little weird to be saying it out loud. Or mix it into the other dialogue—”You’re a long way from home, Black Dog. They call you the dog fiend, but but Mamaw said you don’t hurt anyone.” Something like that. I dunno, it’s fine, it just stood out.

The black dog continued to look at him curiously, its body blending into the shadows. Only its red mouth and glowing eyes were easy to see. Billing started to try to edge around it, and it growled again. It ran at him and jumped.

The growling is at odds with the curious look, like if a normal dog looks at you curiously, I don’t think you’d imagine they’re growling at you. Even like “the dogs eyes interrogated him” sounds more menacing without necessarily being truly dangerous.

Billy screamed, throwing his arms in front of his face, and flinched away. As the dog leapt into the air, lunging towards him, it seemed to dissipate into the shadows and disappeared. In an instant, it was gone. Billy’s heart still pounded, but slowly the sounds of night bugs and frogs picked up. He hadn’t realized until he heard them again that they had been absent.

Hurriedly, he headed down the path. He kept an eye on the path and his surroundings, but he made a point not to look into the trees. God only knows what he might see looking back at him now. Getting home, he went inside and locked the door. He leaned against it with a heavy sigh.

You can take the boy out of the mountains, they’d always say. But you can’t take the mountains out of the boy.

All in all a good little story. It’s not overly ambitious, and it sticks to the point it was trying to make.



This is a heavy one. Slick writing all around. It can be a tough TD entry since it’s tough to just skim it and get a sense of what’s going on. But I doubt anyone would deny it’s a poetry jam. Do I fully understand everything? Probably not. There are a few passages where I think it’s unintentionally obtuse, and that’s just a matter of editing or rearranging maybe a couple words at most.
Maybe there could be more frequent oscillations between main character syndrome and thinking he’s an NPC.
I’ll be thinking about

Every car passing under the new street light takes on the tone of an emergency services vehicle, to the clerk. Once a customer had asked him why the light was that color in a very earnest way as if expecting him to answer with an authority he didn't have. He worked in a shop and didn't have anything to do with the putting up or maintaining of suburban infrastructure and wondered how the guy could so plainly ask him that. The ones who call you sir not out of some sly disrespect or a knowing joke but with total sincerity. They bother him. The ones that wheedle and plead not for anything in particular but just a license to continue on their way without fear of--what? The slap of a newspaper? The burn of a cigarette on their skin? What do they expect from life that causes them to address a total stranger with all the authority of a pricing gun or a headset as sir? If he and others like him go around perpetually with an external locus of control what will happen if something put that out, or caused it to flicker? He supposed there was no flickering for a man like that it was always on or if once lost, well the mind reels, Lovecraftian horrors.

Very interesting opener. A heady mix of self-loathing and projected loathing. And juxtaposing the decorum life of a sincere ‘member of society’ with the checked out attitude from a not very pleasant upbringing.

The light is blue he supposes and as it glints off the glass and paint of passing cars the frequency of it shouts to him cop or ambulance. Some gut feeling that says something is emergent in the corner of his eye every time they pass. That light is special in his mind and shouldn't be misused it signifies something and is diminished by the wearing away of one after another. How would he know a real cop car now out there? Because he's always waiting for one isn't he? That's disturbing. He hadn't done anything wrong. But had he? Was he afraid of another? Needing intercession?

Ramping up.

The regular asks him to double bag the bright red hand grenades of hard apple something. She buys a lot of them most nights which wouldn't be noteworthy but she's real small. He's carded her more than a few times absentmindedly because she looks like a child and he wonders sometimes if it's fake and he's selling to a delinquent but his boss knows and sells to her too. She's a grown woman you can see in her eyes and hear in her voice but she's really small. At first he thought they must be for someone else but no, and then he wondered how she could drink so many with her size. She mumbled something about dropping them before that was masked by the air conditioner and it's clear even though you can't see in her walk that she's lit. She's overly familiar in the way of the drunk and ever present as if you must know not just her name but her mother's as well.

And then she does, out in the parking lot she drops them. He wouldn't have pegged her for it. Thought she must have some kind of grace to her in spite of the booze because she's really beautiful in a way and so must. He figured the drinks were tougher too but nope at least three were taken out in the fall and she's coming back in. And she's with someone, suddenly a car arrives and she is known and they must be going out together. Her compatriot is at least sober he thinks but then is he even a good judge of that now? The new woman goes back in her slip ons and pajamas to get her own drinks and the little one follows without an explanation and grabs replacements for the fallen comrades. She sets them on the counter to his left away from the driver's purchases by just a little as if to say she's next in line. He rings the thank god someone's in charge here woman up first and she heads out towards the door.

Crystal clear descriptions and great language. I wonder if the clerk would call anyone delinquent tho? It doesn’t seem with the character so far.

The measure on the wall by the door of every shop is for the cameras and the witnesses for the inevitable robberies he supposes. Not sure how useful it is he's never even practiced on regulars or even this one who might be shorter than five foot. The girl with her hair dyed the same shade as the glass bottles she now reaches for follows in step without paying, alluding to the smashed ones she left on the sidewalk out front. Dumbfounded the clerk just lets it happen and the two walk out in to the night to a car to a party or a concert or a club that he can't attend. He has to hold the counter down and clean up the dribbling remains of her party fouls later.

He lets some customers obviously steal or take that way if they have the right attitude. His boss who supposedly watches at all times would not like that but has never said anything so he wonders if he's taking advantage. Guy has a kid on the way and can't be watching video feed from several stores all the time like some lesser god using a phone app to peak down on him and check on the floors or the stock that he should be cleaning and primping in low spots in the night. Sometimes he doesn't remember to turn on the outside lights until late in his shift but there is no complaint from the customers or a boss. Sometimes he deliberately doesn't sweep and mop before close because he doesn't like the job and doesn't want to keep it.

So it’s not clear quite why the clerk feels that he’s taking advantage. Like if he’s really just a wage robot, would it even occur to him? The manager is probably not the owner, just another wage slave with a more inflated sense of self-worth, being watched by the same unflinching cctv of capital.

He really doesn't get a lot of complaints and it makes him wonder if he's just great, or being ignored or maybe he's not really here. On enough dissociatives those kinds of thoughts do run rampant. In life in general it seems like feedback is at a lull and in the dark at night he sometimes wonders if after the plague and the ongoing war most people don't want to engage with the small stuff. He knows there are types of people who believe there only a few others in the world or none, besides themselves. Solipsists who think that a few actors or holograms make up a small universe to test or contain them and how lonely that must seem. He believes in other people but feels like the world is depopulated some nights. If there was a nuclear exchange out of the blue and the pulse knocked out concentric rings of communication cutting people off from the wider world when does the notification come? Checking a phone for a signal that isn't there, if news or weather doesn't come up and then text and last to be checked actual phone service is gone what then?

This is p great

In a fit of ebullient paranoia he decides the girl actually likes him and wanted him to join her later and had left the broken bottles mostly full of booze by the trash instead of in it to entice him. He guesses it would taste good after the initial stench of alcohol is washed away by its effects. All he'd have to do is pick one up from over by the trash and walk away from here drinking. In the direction of music and the smell of hot food. He had the run of the place, money, snacks, all manner of intoxicants all at his fingertips and all held down by himself alone. Could walk away at any time to follow them down the street and hope he wasn't some kind of sicko for finding someone that young-looking attractive. Part of him knew the consequences to all this would be tremendous. His lost sobriety, the crashing realization of unemployment, a little tease from a girl who would probably lose interest in him immediately after sex. She'd laugh and go on heedless and he would probably go to jail again somehow for job abandonment and theft and whatever they do to people who walk away thoughtless into the night after strays.

He never cleans up the bottles and leaves them for the wanderers. Locks the place up and walks under the blue light looking down the road towards a club she might be at and back to his house. After The Fourth there had been some fireworks set off in the city, even though it was forbidden as a fire hazard among other things. Some nights there would be a string of explosions that sounded to him like gunshots. He was almost as worried about gunfire as he was about how embarrassing it is to think about drive-bys in a tiny quiet city like this. He speculates he should have told the guy it's so not to attract insects. He plans out a lie he'll tell someone else about it knowingly as if he'd read it in an article. There aren't any bugs circling around the flat head of the thing. There is no bulge either like there was before for a yellow bulb like before. He wonders about the lack of bugs and whether it has do with a somehow shrinking biomass. Is the world getting thinner? You'd think if it were dying there would be more flies to feed on the corpse.

The line about not attracting insects didn’t initially make sense. The last ‘guy’ referenced is the manager, so it took a sec that it was about streetlights and not the cider mess. Maybe if it was “He speculates he should have told ‘sir’ it’s so not to attract insects” or something like that. That it pops in while thinking about the rest is fine.

Engines revv and shriek and howl in the distance and in his imagination they are road warriors in from the dirt on missions to steal identities and wifi and sell dope for food. Pick up girls like they must with their tattoos and shiny chrome. Always at the periphery since the cars he sees come in are modern sleek and efficient, or at least bloated gas hogs with mortgages. No toy cars like in Mad Max but serious adult vehicles of people who have careers and families and places to go at night.

But out there beyond his scope people are wild and free and careless. They don't sleep alone or maybe that much at all and probably smell like sex and gas and booze. All the things he sees leaving from here but never for him. And when the fear grips him at night after all the pills settle in up down and sideways and he is content he checks the news. It's true people have been shot around here, one in front of his house, another in a club. This woman was murdered in her home but they don't say how.

I guess this could be parr of why he doesn’t just disappear into the night, so he can get his pills. If he’s sober, then these are not recreational pills and something something health care. Either way, they’re not working all that well, or he’s under-diagnosed. The fear is after the pills, which is confusing, but they enable him to check in with the airwaves like the phone zombies referenced before. I’d guess it’s like a fomo fear of not being part of the rest of the masses, but

He wonders if he was the murderer sometimes because he reads those stories and has seen the movies, his own kind of Tyler Durden id because he seems so dispassionate, even to himself that there must be something more under the surface. A killer, maybe a rapist. Something awful and animalistic and real. Does the murder necessitate rape? He feels guiltier about the idea of rape than of murder. Being able to see his place of work from his home is disconcerting. It's not that small of a town but he managed to finagle a job that near. People used to live at their jobs, farms and mills and mines just right there, like incidentals in a video game. The light is very efficient in only illuminating the road beneath itself. It doesn't scatter everywhere messily like those old yellow or orange ones but that leaves him in darkness very quickly across the way.

As I recall, the Fight Club narrator is too obsessed with meaningless ‘stuff’ not just a blank slate, but rather than try to feel something, this clerk wants an ego death. Or is halfway there through medication already.

Walking up the driveway he has to be careful not to stumble on loose pavers the light is so low and irregular. Maybe people need to watch for stars he thinks, or satellites at least. At least he can see that he's turned the sign off at work to settle his mind.

Probably could have made an allusion or explicit callback to the drunk woman staggering, but this all works as a fine wrap up.


:siren:[b]Ouzo Maki

****story blanked by request****

So this started out, and I was like, oh cool, it’s just going to be sex and drugs and dubstep, but it turns into a nightmare-fuel cautionary tale. The quantum mechanics and the ocean/sealife imagery is beautiful throughout, and it’s juxtaposed well with the mundane dialogue. It’s deft with the external goings-on and the internal meltdown, until it all blends together at the end.

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 22:45 on Aug 28, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 577 Read along crits by post order
The Evil Queen

A colloquial retelling of Snow White through a very unusual version of the (not-so) evil Queen.
I see some fine cutesy passages when they’re flirting but the queen doesn’t have a lot of agency, and is too simple to really think things through. That’s fine as a protagonist, but maybe not one with this sort of message.

I dunno, a protag who says I never wanted excitement or adventure, and is explicitly not part of the adventure, and not even a mastermind sure is a concept. She gets the ball rolling by summoning Stuart, but she’s still having a man come save her. And she’s not even party to the plan that works in the end. The queen falls into a domestic role at the end anyway, and aside from the sex, it’s still sort of the same situation. I mean if she’s not going to do something traditionally masculine like join Hilda as a stonemason, then maybe at least she could hone her cooking enough to open a restaurant. (And then maybe even as a bigger play on the original, become the best chef, have Snow ask a question about it, and create a poisoned gourmet meal for the king).

I’m naked in front of the mirror, and I look good. I look more beautiful than any other woman in the nation, and I know this for a fact, because I have been here almost every night since I was married.

“Ask the question,” he says from over my shoulder.

I ask the question, and the mirror assures me once again that it is me, undisputed queen of being the prettiest woman. Once again satisfied that his is the prettiest trophy wife, my reward is five minutes of unfulfilling sex. “You love it, don’t you?” he asks. I don’t, but say I do. “Of course you do.”

He finishes. I barely start.

We could be asking this mirror way more pressing questions than whether being the only woman to live in a palace and have regular baths and makeup is still giving me the edge over women a decade younger than me. It strikes me as unreasonable that an item of furniture gets to be the arbiter of who’s the prettiest. I expressed this to it at one point, and it said it’s just based on popular opinion.

So a take on Snow White from the Queen’s perspective, and she’s a victim of patriarchy, while also appreciative of her own rockin bod.

I know we could be asking more interesting question, because I have asked it about neighbouring countries, (at this stage non hostile) the meaning of life, (beyond its remit as an item of enchanted furniture) when he will finally make a widow of me, (the future remains unclear) and look I know that looks like a poor success rate, but at least I’m branching out in my questioning.

I also know that the gap between me and other women is gradually closing, and I don’t know how he’ll take it.


The moment has arrived, although I do not know it yet. I’m naked as always, because the mirror has told me that boosts my perceived beauty. I ask the question, and reflected back at us is another woman. You know what, I see it, she’s gorgeous.

“Can’t even be better than some peasant,” he says. “Work on it.”

Once he’s left, I get dressed. I’m not sure how he wants me to ‘work on it’. She's much younger. I’m on my way down, she’s on her way up, according to whatever criteria the mirror uses. I know it said it’s just majority rules; I would wonder if it’s just men’s opinion that counts, but on this occasion, I think the mirror got it right. Hell, I’d consider myself lucky to be with her.

I mean, not her, I could almost be her mother, but someone that looked like her.

It’s sort of interesting that the Queen is as much into superficial beauty as the king.

Maybe just someone who’s not him.

I’ve planned ahead for this, though. I just didn’t really want to do this.

After a brief chat with the mirror regarding the borders of our country and conveniently neutral areas, I call for Stuart. Stuart’s one of my friends’ kids from before I was queen. Back when I was thrilled that the mirror had apparently told the King that I was the prettiest of all the women, and he’d asked me to marry him, and well… you just say yes when the King asks, right?

Stuart had also grown into quite an imposing figure, which is very useful for what I had in mind. I just needed her to not be in the country, right? Just for a bit, just while I figure out what to do next. So, he arrived, I told him what I needed and pointed out the place on the map. You don’t even really notice it, the map has it as impassable mountain; I guess the cartographers didn’t go everywhere.


For the next few weeks, I’m back to being the prettiest, and can concentrate on just surviving having a jackass as a husband without having to worry about whether he’ll try to replace me, and what method he’d use to get rid of me so that he is better able to replace me. And then, one night, bam, up she pops again. He sighs, like he’s telling me off for something I did. “I thought we talked about this.”

The Queen could have worked on some sort of permanent escape plan during this time instead of relaxing. Cuz the king only pops in once a day. Or try some different twists on the question, like who’s the most alluring or erotic or best in bed. See how those responses go.

If it wasn’t for the fear of what he might do, I’d really enjoy the nights where the revelation that I’m not the prettiest in the country means he just can’t bring himself to give me the dubious pleasure of his company.


The next morning, I call for Stuart again, and once he arrives, explain the situation.

“Ah,” says Stuart, and looks a bit embarrassed. “Sorry about that, I’ve sort of been seeing her, and…”

“After you did the whole tough guy thing?”

He shrugs. “Well, I may have made it seem like you really wanted her dead, but I didn’t, so…”

I sigh. “Can’t you just… convince her not to come across the border at nighttime?”

“Sorry,” he said, “this situation’s kind of hard to explain to her. You’re better at that kind of thing, why don’t you explain it to her?”

“Like, leave the palace? Don’t think His Highness would allow that. Also, how is she going to react to an explanation from someone who she thinks wanted to kill her?”

Wouldn’t the simplest step be to just give Stuart enough money or jewelry to get a place across the border and live there with Snow? It’s doesn’t solve the long term problem, but gets rid of the immediate one.

He shrugged. “I’ll convince her to hear you out. With the King, couldn’t you just say you’re going for some beauty treatment or something?”

“Hmm,” I say. He’s right; that’s probably the one reason my husband would let me leave.

He offers to take me; being able to visit your new girlfriend under the guise of Royal Business is clearly an opportunity he can’t pass up. I’m not sure I trust the usual carriage drivers with the location, so I accept.


The trip takes a few hours, so I see how if she came over to visit Stuart during the day, she might still be in country while my husband is having me conduct my nocturnal beauty check.

We arrive at a wooden cottage built into the side of the mountain. Out the front, a small, bearded dwarf is tending the garden.

“Ah, young Stuart. Snow’s just out at the moment, singing with birds or whatever it is tall women do.” I get out of the carriage, and the dwarf raises an eyebrow. “Another one? Leave some for the rest of us, ey?”

Stuart chuckles. “It’s not like that. This is, uh…” he pauses, then shrugs, “…the Queen.”

“Oh, me too, lad. I’m the King and Queen.” The dwarf looks me up and down. “Are all you tall women this beautiful?”

Stuart laughs and turns to the horses. “I’m going to tie the horses up and then go find Snow, if that’s all right.”

The dwarf nods, then looks at me. “It’s getting close to lunchtime. Come give me a hand, Your Highness.” This last bit is said in a teasing voice.

“Oh,” I say. “I don’t really know what I’m doing in the kitchen.”

“Just follow my directions.” The dwarf walks me through the process, but I mostly stick to chopping things and stirring when I’m told. “You learn fast.”

I shrug. “Maybe I would’ve made a good cook, although I’m a bit old to start learning new skills now.”

A shake of the head. “Never too late.”

The two lovebirds arrive, giggling as they come in the door, and she starts giggling even more when she sees us. “I’m always telling you, Hilda, you don’t need to wear that thing.”

The dwarf takes off her beard and hangs it on a hook. She looks at my expression; I realise my jaw is open, so I close it. She shrugs. “Some people don’t take a stonecutter without a beard seriously.”

missed opportunity for the cabin to not have a sign out front: Stuart and Hilda, stonecutters for hire.

“Delicious as always, Hilda,” says Snow once we’ve eaten.

“Her Highness helped.”

“Oh, you already know she’s the Queen?”

“Come now, I was just playing along,” says Hilda. She looks at our faces. “Really? Well, then. If I’d known, I would’ve curtseyed.”

“While wearing the beard?” I ask.

She chuckles. “Bowed, perhaps.”

I shrug. “I’m not your Queen anyway; the border is why we’re here in the first place.”

She winks at me. “You can be my Queen if you want to.”

“Hilda!” says Stuart.

She shrugs. “What? She said it herself, she’s not my Queen, so this isn’t inappropriate at all, when you think about it.”

Snow rolls her eyes. “So, Stuey tells me you don’t want me dead after all?”

“What?” says Hilda.

“It’s a bit complicated,” I say.

“I feel like wishing someone dead is a simple yes or no,” she says.

So, I explain the whole thing, with being chosen by the mirror, and moved into the palace before the wedding, then married on my eighteenth birthday, (Which is weird that the mirror picked out a seventeen-year-old for him, right? Like that means a majority of people would’ve thought a seventeen-year-old was the prettiest at whatever time he asked, and given what the mirror’s since told me about how to make myself seem prettier, maybe it was when I was bathing or changing, like that’s a bit much, right?) and my husband first introducing me to the mirror a month after our marriage, and almost every night since then, and at first it being a bit of fun, but as I got older it getting scarier and scarier…

I mean, the original Grimm has Snow White outshining the Queen at age seven, sooo…..yikes

Well, I try to explain the whole thing, but the look on their face…

I trail off. “So, what’s this got to do with me?” asks Snow.

I shrug. “I’m not the prettiest anymore. And that’s going to be a problem for His Highness.”

Hilda snorts and shakes her head. “Can’t believe he’d rather ask for a survey than use his eyes to see how gorgeous you are.”

I mean the language is rather colloquial throughout so it would have been cute to have the Queen recite some technical “The aggregate beauty standards as perceived by the 18-49 demographic of the kingdom rely on a degree of facial symmetry with a bust to waist ratio of….”

“You think he’d leave you for me?” asks Snow.

I shake my head. “He’d be too worried about appearances. He’d need to be a widow first.”

“And then he’d want me as a wife. Or whoever the next pretty young girl is.” I nod. She turns to Stuart. “Stuey, I’m getting an idea. I need to chat with you in private. You’re going to think it’s a lot, but then you’re going to realise I’m right.”

So, the two of them go to her bedroom to talk, and Hilda and I sit awkwardly for a moment. “Do you need a drink?” asks Hilda. “Because I need a drink after hearing all that, and I’m not even the one it’s happening to.”


She pours two drinks and we’re halfway through them when Snow and Stuart return. “All right, so here’s the plan,” says Snow. “We’re faking your death. You tragically fell off a cliff. We need your clothes.”

“Um,” I say.

Isn’t she supposed to be at a spa? Some sauna or mud treatment accident would be a more amusing cover story.

Hilda raises an eyebrow. “Not sure she’ll fit into mine; are you lending her yours, or is she hanging out with nothing? Either works for me, but it can get cold at night…”

“She can wear my spare dress, and Stuart will send more later. You have to stay here though, for the same reason you wanted me to.”

“Aren’t you just inheriting my problem, then? And what does that mean for the two of you?”

“Trust us,” says Stuart.

And I do. Or at least, I want to badly enough, that I’m happy to do what they say.


Later, the part of the story that people are interested in hearing is not the part that I’m that familiar with. I hear snippets; like how after a month or so of mourning to keep up appearances, Snow is moved into the palace. How the king is tragically killed by a bear in a hunting accident after the wedding, but before the consummation of the wedding that night. How Snow, the new Queen, grieves for a year before marring Stuart. I don’t tell people that Snow made sure she knew where the mirror was, and what kind of questions it could answer, like the location of various types of wildlife. And besides, while most people find that exciting, it’s not my life.

What’s exciting to me is learning how to do things other than be a King’s trophy. Eventually learning how to cook by myself, and to garden all the things that we’re going to be cooking. What's exciting is, one night after a glass of beer, kissing Hilda as kind of a joke, but also because I realised that I’d been really wanting to.

What’s exciting to me is that from that night, and every night following it, I am never in any doubt that to Hilda, I am the most beautiful woman in the world, and she doesn’t care what a mirror thinks.

What's exciting is actually getting to finish.

Good callback to the beginning. The love story is fine, maybe more could have been done with Hilda *before* taking the beard off, or the real traditional all dwarves have real beards? And on our fortieth wedding anniversary, I trimmed Hilda’s beard and she waxed my moustache before we set off for the castle. There’s a lot with aging and beauty standards you could have toyed with.

:siren:Toaster Beef
Six Minutes at a New Jersey Diner

He warmed his hands on a mug of coffee, huddling over it like he was telling it a secret. The heat radiated through his fingers, marking its advance with pinpricks. Outside, winter raged. He squinted at the window. Through the ghost of his reflection, swirls of heavy, hard-driven snow obscured whatever view the tar-black night was willing to relinquish.

Somewhere in the invisible distance, the 9th Street Bridge stretched proudly over Great Egg Harbor Bay. At its peak, it was roughly 65 feet from the railing to the water. Not fatal, but not fun. Last he’d checked, the water clocked in at a touch over 40 degrees. Fatal, but not quick.

One-thirty in the morning in the middle of winter would never be a particularly busy time for a barrier island diner, but the storm thinned the crowd out even further. He’d come in only a few minutes ago and done an immediate inventory while shaking the snow from his coat and boots. It didn’t take long. In one of the small corner booths sat a young couple, their hands and eyes glued across the laminate table, their conversation hushed. A few tables, an old jukebox, and a pastry display away — not very far, really, but across the diner nonetheless — sat a very drunk older gentleman who’d clearly stumbled in from the inexplicably open bar next door and was being given the leeway to sober up a bit. Each in their own world. Galaxies between.


Just emerging from the kitchen had been the waitress. She pointed him toward his booth with a warm smile and was pouring coffee before he even had his coat off. Her voice, complexion, and fingernails — not to mention the weight of her perfume — all indicated a heavy smoker. Her jittering hands and the storm outside indicated it had been a while. Regardless, she couldn’t have been nicer getting him situated. He’d been left with a menu and his mug of coffee. He hadn’t even touched the former yet.

He continued staring out the window.

The waitress fiddled with the coffee station. It sounded like she was loading a new pot into the machine. Off to one side, some shuffling footsteps got his attention. The drunk older man had gotten to his feet and made it to the jukebox. He slowly and deliberately reached into his pocket, pulled out a quarter, and dropped it into the coin slot. Nothing happened. The box was unplugged. The old man grumbled something to himself, smacked the glass, and wandered back to his table. A few steps in, he turned slightly, waved, and apologized to the machine for losing his temper before slumping back into his booth and resuming his stupor.

Back in his senior year, there was very little reprieve from the loneliness of being a commuter. One time, torrential rains had forced him to be a few minutes late to campus. He pulled into a spot and checked his phone to find an email about class being canceled — then spent the next hour with the car off, listening to rain pound the roof. There was a serenity in that juxtaposition, that contrast. A feeling of safety. It ran through him, made him calm, made him content, drowned out the loud parts and stalled their progress. He found something similar there, in the dull glow of the diner’s recessed lighting, watching the winter punish Ocean City.

The waitress finished up at the coffee station and walked down the counter to the register. She bent to reach under it and grabbed a few paper placemats for one of the unset tables. She licked her finger before peeling them off the pile.

He smiled to himself and looked down at his own placemat, with its coffee ring off to the left from where the waitress had filled his mug to the brim as he sat down — and, on the edge of one side, the faint impression of what had been a damp fingertip. The placemat itself was nothing but ads for local businesses. Mostly construction. One psychic. Someone willing to buy junk cars. A landscaper. A masonry company. A gun range.

Quick. Ostensibly painless. But firearm laws in New Jersey complicated things greatly. Not worth writing off entirely, but probably more of a last resort because of the time and expense involved.

He sipped the coffee. It was bitter, a little burnt. Over at the young couple’s table, the girl laughed loudly. She surprised herself with it and took a sheepish glance around the room. For a fraction of a second, across the diner from one another, they made eye contact — then broke it and went on with their lives. The boy and girl whispered to each other and laughed quietly. They contrasted so heavily with the faded, worn red padding of their seats. He had to jolt himself away from watching them.

Two booths away and four years prior, he and six other friends crammed themselves into those gross padded seats at 10:30 one night and didn’t leave until the sun started lighting up the eastern sky. They’d made the trip down from campus — this was when he still lived in the dorms — the morning before to spend a day at the boardwalk. They visited what felt like every single shop, weaving their way through the modest springtime crowd, making slow progress up and down the three-mile stretch. When night came, they grabbed an irresponsible amount of pizza and sat at a picnic table in a small food court laughing and chatting until a security guard ushered them away hours later. Unwilling to let the night rest, they’d found their way here — and, being young, decided stomachs full of pizza shouldn’t dissuade anyone from night waffles.

Only six months later, two of those friends were no longer speaking because one had slept with the other’s ex. Another had dropped out because their alcoholism was no longer of the functional variety. The other three, perhaps feeling weighed down by the drama, perhaps growing as people, perhaps just in pursuit of more interesting company, all dispersed in their own ways. To the best of his knowledge, each — save for the one who dropped out — went on to graduate.

Of those five graduates, one didn’t make it through the summer. He’d gone back to his small town to live with his parents while the job market decided what it wanted to do with him, and one night on a dare with some local buddies he tried to swim across the town lake and just … never came up. They wrenched the guy’s body out of the tangled vegetation about 12 hours later, overcast skies hanging low over a gathered crowd of shaken friends and neighbors.

He thought about the dead one a lot. In part because that’s just what you do, sure, but in part because he couldn’t shake himself away from wondering what was going through the guy’s mind when the situation turned. Did he believe right up until his last second of consciousness that, bad as it looked, he was going to escape and laugh about this later? Or was there a moment, surrounded by pure blackness, where he realized what was happening?

None of the others from that day in Ocean City showed up to the funeral. He sat all the way in the back and didn’t say a word to anyone else during the entire service. When it was over, he quietly slipped out the back, got into his car, and drove nowhere in particular for a few hours.

“Been a long while since we saw one this bad,” said the waitress, staring out the window. It startled him, and the booth seat gave a loud, indecorous grunt. She either didn’t notice or didn’t care. “Figured they were done with.”

She glanced down at his still-closed menu, then at him. “You ready to order, or are you still deciding?”

Two minutes to lose consciousness. Depending on who you ask, it’s either one of the most guttural and terrifying experiences imaginable or shockingly calm and peaceful. After that, it’s another eight or 10 minutes before the body succumbs.

He shook his head and stared down at the coffee. “Still deciding.”

Jawns goin down the shore? Rather die. Yeah, it’s a clever structure hook, maybe there could have been some other asides, like “Smoking. 40 years.” Cuz I mean when you’re ideating in a detached way, you tend to see it everywhere.

Likewise it might have been nice to see the six companions as the patrons/staff in the diner. The lovers, the alcoholic, and flesh out the rest just a bit to sketch the old gang all around for a final meal (especially if the narrator doesn’t order). The other patrons get pretty hefty descriptions, but the OC friends are kind of bare bones.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 577 Read along crits by post order

:siren:My Shark Waifuu

it was kind of hard to line by line crit this, aside from a detail here and there. Stream of consciousness and getting lost in a book. I think it would have been cool if it started slow and groggy, then you know, that “I can hear every sound” stage of awake, then as the cups of coffee go down, the speed ramps up until it’s a whirl of words before resolving in silence as the protag gets into the book, then at the end "I can hear birds chirp I know why'

I’m awake. Confusing, it’s pitch black. Silent too. Creepy. Maybe if I do nothing, I’ll go back to sleep … OK, that’s not happening. What time is it anyway? 4 AM?! gently caress me. I just gotta try harder to fall back asleep, my alarm goes off in like 3 hours.

Yeah, nah, I’m officially awake now. This is what I get for going to bed early, like a responsible adult. Ugh. What to do. Lying in bed is nice, it’s warm … but sooo boring. Where’s my phone? Ah, charging. Dammit. If I get up to get it, I might as well get up for real. Fine. gently caress, why is it so cold? Where’s my hoodie?

OK, to the kitchen. Quiet past Niko’s room, though he’ll probably be up soon anyway, he’s got early classes. He’s a … what’s the opposite of a night owl? A morning … wren? Gotta be something small and cute, like him. ANYWAY. With the door shut he won’t notice the light on. Argh, why’s it so bright? I swear they’re not this bright in the daytime.

It’s quiet out here. Like the whole world is sleeping. Which everyone is, except for me. Phone’s charged, nice. There’s not even any cars driving by, not that I notice them normally, but their absence is weird. Did the clock always tick so loudly? Surely I would’ve noticed that before, so annoying.

What the hell am I going to do for three whole hours? Let’s check the phone … yeah, no new messages since 10 PM last night. Big surprise there. Would boiling the kettle be too loud? Nah. If I’m wrong, then too bad. I’m not being awake without coffee at loving 4:20 in the morning. Ha, nice.

get an electric kettle, they're nice and quiet, and way faster

Oh, there goes a car. Poor bastard. At least there’s no traffic, I bet. Kettle’s boiled … ah yes. That coffee’s hitting just right. Cool. But I’ve still got sooo much time before my first class. Normally, I have to slam the coffee down in my rush out the door. Now, I get to savor it, like it’s the weekend. Who knew there was all this extra time at the beginning of the day?

Right, I’m savoring my coffee. But there’s still nothing to do. It seems wrong to turn on my computer. I mean, I could, but like, what would I do? Definitely not in the right headspace for games. gently caress, imagine the absolute degenerates playing at this hour of the day. And I’d be one of them. Hell no. TV? Nah, Niko wants to watch that season finale together. That dude needs to come out of his room then, probably chatting up a new flame or something, or else I’m just gonna watch it myself. Not this morning, I’ll give him another chance.

i mean i'm trusting that the gaming degenerates is a self-burn

Hey, there’s that book he got from the library. Said it was “pretty good.” Huh, magic and dragons and poo poo? Not usually my thing, but I’ve got nothing else to do. Maybe make another coffee …

Was that a bird? But it’s still dark outside. What’s this bird singing about? No idea they did that. Sounds like it’s just the one bird too, who’s he singing to? Not me, dude probably does it every day. Early bird gets the worm? Better be hustling instead of singing, bird. Not that I mind, it’s nice. And literally the first signs of life from the outside world. Wonder why super-late nights never feel like this? Probably ‘cause I’m usually drunk as poo poo by this point. Nice not being hungover. Right, now where was I? Niko was right, this book’s pretty good …

Uh, that wasn’t a bird. That was a person. God, I knew the first-floor flat was a mistake. Joke’s on you, would-be burglar, it’s the one day where I’m awake! You’re not getting my computer! Or Niko’s vinyl collection either. Now, what’s the heaviest thing … Oh. They’re humming. Probably not a criminal, then. Who is that? Ah, I bet it’s Joe going to the gym. drat, that’s dedication.

Although, the blinds are glowing. The birds are going nuts out there. The cars are driving past more frequently. Yep, the sun’s up. Sort of, the light’s all cold and pale, like the sun isn’t quite awake yet either. It’s nice though, makes everything look fresh. Maybe this is why Niko gets up early?

OK, that’s enough of that. What time is it? Ah, I’ve got time for one more chapter at least …

“Oh, hey Niko.” drat, that just-out-of-bed look looks good on him.

“That’s my book.” Oh no, he isn’t happy. “Also, your alarm’s been going off for the past ten minutes.”

gently caress.

“Sorry, sorry!” Argh, I’m such an idiot. Does this mean he hears my alarm each of the, like, five times I hit snooze? Oh my God, embarrassing.

Whew, he looks happier now. And he still hasn’t combed his hair, nice. “I didn’t know you read books like this?” he asks.

I haven’t combed my hair either, I bet it looks terrible. “Oh, uh, I don’t.” Real smooth. “Not usually. But this one’s good. I mean, I haven’t finished it yet, but so far … yeah, I like it.”

I sound borderline illiterate, but he smiles. “What part are you at? Oh, wait, do you have class?”

Ugh, he’s so responsible. What’s the clock say (can hardly hear the ticking, strange), and what’s my schedule today? A flash of pure rage: my first class is at 10 AM. I got up early for literally no reason!

But Niko’s scooting over to make room for me on the sofa. Looking at me as if he’s seeing me in a new light. Thank God I didn’t watch that season finale without him.

I smile. “Nope! This morning, I have plenty of time.” Maybe not no reason …

Epilogue: gently caress, it’s 2 PM and I’m exhausted. Send help. Or coffee.

cute ending. I guess it’s a little flirty with Niko or wishful thinking, it could just be companionship bonding, I guess the best flirt is both.


night thoughts

I once read in a book how strange it is that ice floats. Most elements, the book said, are denser when solid than when liquid, and so it’s actually unusual that ice floats on water. Imagine, the book asked me, a world where every winter millions of tons of ice rush down through the oceans straight to the bottom, crushing all the fishes and everything else, piling up and never melting again because no sunlight reaches down there, imagine that world, the book asked me, where life in the oceans and by extension all over earth would be utterly different, if not impossible. The book went on to say this was evidence that the earth and universe were designed.

Was the book Cat’s Cradle?

My boots crunch on frozen slush and I scrape hardened snow from the railing with gloved hands, lean on the rail and watch the dark waters through foggy breath. Moonlight and lamplight make twin streaks on the water. It’s always silent here on the harbor at night, especially winter nights, only the hollow plonk of the waves under me, the crick of the wood and metal under me. On my nights off like this I enjoy walking alone, and looking at the water alone. There is no better way to be alone than to be outside late on a cold winter night. The streets hibernate, the buildings are placid and dark, and inside people lay prone and cocooned, waiting for the sun.


I often think about the line that separates day from night, an edge of darkness cutting across the globe every twentyfour, and everyone it touches falling like wheat to a scyth. What is it in our biology that forces us to sleep, I wonder. Somehow, we evolved the need to lay completely motionless and unaware for hours at a time. It seems impossible in a brutal prehistory where all our surroundings were aiming to kill us. But then, maybe that is exactly the reason we sleep. Maybe in the world of our rodent-like ancestors, where everything was stronger, faster, and deadlier than us, laying still as if dead through the long, dark hours was the best way to survive the night.

I think I read once, it’s not the stillness, but the dreaming that’s the important part.

Some black object is lolling on the waves. Each rocking motion takes it toward me, up and down, slipping forward. A piece of wood, or piece of trash, crawling toward me, the only thing moving on that glistening expanse. I can’t help but invent a mind for this aphotic shape, can’t help but see it as a fellow solitary soul, here at the end of a long journey across the lake, here to meet me and tell me of all its travels. I wonder of its origins, what tree or factory, what long and pockmarked life led it here. I lean forward anticipating its arrival, and shards of ice and slush plop into the dark waters as I shift my feet.

Some winters ago I found, on this same pier, wedged between the wood planks at my feet, a 1967 Canadian fifty-cent coin bearing the worn image of a howling wolf. I plucked it from the gap and rubbed sticky grime away with my thumb and pondered what had brought it here. I held it for some time, I remember, as the night wind rustled my hair and the water lapped at the dock posts. I turned it so the wolf winked in the moonlight and I imagined the places it must have been, the things it must have witnessed as it moved from hand to hand over the past half century. Then I tossed it over the railing and watched it land in the water, sink, vanish into the dark and silt. Who can guess, I thought then, the years or millenia that will pass before that coin continues its journey. It may rest there after humanity is gone, and I will be the last one who touched it.

The dark shape is near now, bobbing on the waves, and somewhere beneath it is the coin. I kneel down on the planks. Cold wetness seeps through to my knees as I reach out to the shifting waters. It is, I think, a piece of driftwood. It bobs nearer to my grasp and I stretch out for it. As I bend and reach I see, under the dock, almost directly beneath me, some splash of color in the moonlight, deep blue like the underside of a glacier and for an instant I think it is ice floating there, strangely buoyant ice, evidence of god. But it is not frozen, it undulates with the water. There is a sweater there, stretched out, with two arms and a hood clearly visible, pressing against the dock post right under my feet. I wonder, momentarily, why it doesn't sink, then I notice a pale hand at the end of one sleeve, white, bloated fingers grasping at nothing. Disgusting. I snatch the dark object from the water and stand.

It is, as I suspected, driftwood. A piece about the length and width of my forearm. I turn it left and right in the lamplight and think that it has the vague shape of a fish. A once living piece of a body that may itself still be living, somewhere, a perhaps centuries old being growing and living beside a river somewhere, struck by lightning or broken by a climber, its limb falling into rushing waters that led it here, to me.

Good twist. From the start, I was like oh OK, either this is about death or ruminations on death; and it’s actually ruminations about life.

The sky is lightening, subtly shifting from black to blue. I always make sure to return home long before the sun splits the horizon and ends the hibernation, melts the ice. I take the driftwood with me and leave the pier.

At home the lights are dim. I keep them that way, like candlelight. I only use incandescent bulbs with adjustable brightness. The searing white of LED is so unnatural, it impedes thinking and rest alike. I place the driftwood on a shelf among other such objects. Other bits of wood, stones, coins, metal pieces such as screws and bolts, or unidentifiable relics, bones, a tooth, many such things, all of which I have found on or around the harbor and the surrounding streets.

Should have saved a space for a 1967 Canadian 50-cent piece, (just in case)

I draw the shades, close the blinds, seal myself away from the thawing world. Out there, bodies are beginning to rustle in their cocoons. Soon they will emerge and flood the streets like locusts, eating everything and shouting and crowding everywhere, covering every path with their mindless motion, leaving their droppings, their trash and corpses piled up behind them. And there will be noise, oh the noise they produce, the endless noise.
I mean, they kind of like the detritus, it’s like an alien archaeologist at this point.

Later, in my bedroom, I prepare to enter sleep. I remove my clothes, and select new pieces of clothing for tomorrow. I lay them on my bed, which I no longer use for sleeping. No earplugs, no volume of white noise can combat the racket of the swarm outside my window. For the true silence I require, something else is needed. Next to my bed is a glossy white lozenge eight feet long by five feet wide, my isolation tank, my chamber of peace. I lift the lid, and inside a welcoming blue glow, ice blue like a glacier, is illuminating the dense, salt-laden water in which I will float for the night. I step in, slip into the body-temperature water, pull the lid closed above me, and the blue light blinks out. I welcome the complete and utter silence, the darkness and stillness of a temporary death.

When the blade of shadow circles around the earth once more to cut down the masses, I will wake. And continue, then, my explorations of the night.

OK, so it’s a little about death. Lots of good juxtapositions with the cocoons and floating bodies, especially a driftwood that’s in people clothes, and ‘somebody’ in people clothes that’s adrift. It’s a very tranquil story about someone who either has such loathing or severe anxiety about the chaos of the daytime world that they’ve completely disconnected from it.


:siren:Slightly Lions
Graveyard Shift

It was the Godless hour of night known only to criminals and 24-hour retail workers; the time when sunset is a distant memory and dawn an unreliable rumor. The hour of bloodshot eyes, jaw-cracking yawns, and the gritty feeling that is your diurnal brain telling you you’re a real rear end in a top hat. The fluorescent bulbs rattled and buzzed overhead casting flickering, fishbelly-white light across the racks of potato chips, dish soap, macro-lagers, and energy drinks. The PA speakers rattled off Top 40 pop in a faint and tinny drone. The air smelled like lemon Pledge and boredom. Behind the register Marissa checked the clock above the door, judged the time to be right, and started rolling a joint.

Good setting and great first sentence.
Spliff terminology argument

my choice for retail fight song
(girl from ipanema, blues brothers instrumental version)

She took her time with it. She was a meticulous person like that. She carefully picked fragments of stem out of the weed, added a pinch of rolling tobacco, tossed it about like a salad to homogenize it and carefully, delicately sealed it into a slender cone. She savored the anticipation of the smoke, something that would let her mind pleasantly wander and eat up the hours until dawn and shift change.

See, Ouzo Maki, this is the chill retail smoking experience I want.

She walked over to the front door to lock it and put up the “Back in Five” sign when she noticed the walls were bleeding.


Hoarfrost bloomed across the door despite the unseasonal warmth of the October night. The intricate crystals shaped wailing faces and grasping fingers, and beneath them words scrawled in a rough and frantic hand: I HAVE FORGOTTEN THE MEMORY OF SPRING. I HAVE FORGOTTEN THE SHAPE OF YOUR FACE. WHEN THE TERROR COMES WE SHALL CRUMBLE. Marissa rolled her eyes and sighed. Again with this poo poo.

“Go to Salem State,” her parents had told her, “They’ve got a great theater tech program. It’s near home and soooo affordable. Get yourself a part-time job and you’ll graduate with hardly any debt!” Easy for them to say. They’d never worked graveyard shift at the loving Tedeschi’s on North St. She supposed it served her right for not job hunting over the summer break, if she wanted booze money she had to take what she could get. Still, it was insulting to do this crap for minimum wage and all the American Spirits she could steal.

She swallowed hard, fighting to keep her gorge down as music from the speakers warped and twisted into guttural, wet-sounding chanting and agonized shrieks. Involuntary reaction, she told herself. Just part of the experience. Follow procedure and you’ll be fine. The lights flickered and started casting queasy-making colors she’d never find in the scene shop paint supply. The shadows of the shelves began to twist and bubble. The speaker-voices shifted from tortured glossolalia to a nails-on-a-chalkboard voice that wailed and howled “MY FATHER HAS TURNED FROM ME. THE LIGHT HAS LEFT ME. I AM SCOURGED WITH LASHES AND BROKEN ON STONES. THE TERROR CONSUMES, AND I CONSUME IN RETURN.” The worst part about ghosts, Marissa reflected, was that they’re all drama queens.

I like the cat who eye-rolls a hellmouth. I mean it’s not new, but it usually means a good time.

She shuffled back behind the counter, her feet squelching in some kind of nameless viscera that coated the old linoleum. She rooted around back there, ignoring the rotten-meat reek that was growing really quite oppressive. She tossed aside her parka and the oversized backpack with the Hello Kitty ornaments her parents were sure she still liked. There it was, a big orange plastic box labeled FOR EMERGENCIES. She popped it open and sorted her way past tubes of burn cream, boxes of off-brand Band-Aids, a roll of gauze, until she found the gray plastic pouch emblazoned with “GHOST KIT.” She rifled through it to a collection of crucifixes, selected one at random, and threw it over the counter.

Yes, but maybe the first aid kit is a little too conspicuous—try the canister of Zig-Zag on the shelf behind the American Spirits that’s been there since 1983.

She peeped over the scuffed plastic counter and saw a clawed, almost skeletal hand coalesce from the thickening shadows and grab it. At first the flesh of the hand bubbled and smoked, threatening to decohear, but with a shriek of effort from the speakers it crushed the little cross which evaporated into steam. She groaned, exasperated. Of course it couldn’t be that easy.

Marissa chose another charm, this one a silver St. Michael medallion. She trudged wearily down the aisles, stepping with practiced ease over yawning, toothy mouths that opened in the floor. There was a tricky moment where she had to duck underneath a twist of razor-wire darkness strung between the ice cream chest and the Slurpee machine to reach the mop closet. She fished the smaller bucket out from under the dump sink and looked back to the store floor. Yep, right on schedule the space in the corners of the room began to warp and shift into unreal angles. The shop rattled with a feeling like trying to take a deep breath through pneumonial lungs, air choking past thick fluid and phlegm. From the diseased non-space another clawed hand burst forth and began grasping for purchase on the linoleum tile. Marissa blew a lock of stray hair out of her face and turned back to the sink.

All good ick, an a twist of razor-wire darkness is a cool thing.

She opened the tap and started to fill the bucket, but the first vesselful of water was oily, black, and stank of spoiled seafood. She dumped it out and let the tap run until the water ran clear and filled the bucket half full, tossing the medallion in it. She looked over her shoulder to check the apparition’s progress. It had hauled itself about halfway into the real by now. Long limbed and emaciated, it looked like a nightmare scarecrow, all rotten leather stretched over warped bone. When it moved its joints bent in unwholesome directions. It looked around, its head an oversized goat’s skull with a mouthful of needle-like teeth and burning red eyes. Around its neck it wore a length of hempen noose strung with fingerbones. It howled: “LITTLE FLAME, LITTLE FLAME, YOU FLICKER IN THE DARK. GIVE ME YOUR WARMTH CHILD. IT IS EVER SO COLD DOWN HERE.” Marissa reached down and grabbed a large carton of sea salt from under the sink. All the screeching was making her ears ring, she made an annoyed mental note to bring ear plugs to work from now on.

Oh, flicker

She picked up the bucket and ducked back out of the closet heading for the open space by the door. The caprine ghost-thing leapt up on top of one of the shelving units, its gaunt eight-foot-tall bulk scattering Fritos across the floor. “THE REEK OF THE LIVING IS ON YOU, GIRL-THING. I WILL BE AVENGED BEFORE THE TERROR. I SHALL BREAK YOUR BONES AND CAST AWAY ALL JUDGEMENT.”

Gaunt bulk is a little at odds. I guess it’s all skull.

“Yeah yeah, sure thing.” Marissa muttered. Always the same with the bones and the terror, these loving guys. She carefully set the bucket down by the register and stepped into the open area between shelves and counter. The ghost thing cocked its head at her, nonplussed. She opened the container of salt and poured a measure around herself in a broken circle like a large C. “Well,” she said, “If you’re going to eat me then get on with it, I haven’t got all night.” With a screech like brakes failing the creature leapt at her, toppling the shelf it had perched on.

This was the tricky part, she thought to herself. You’ve got to time it just right to get the thing in the circle before you close it. She could feel fetid breath on her face, smelling of rotten grain and poisoned earth and moldering cloth. She jumped to the side, careful to tuck her feet up under her so as not to disturb the salt. As her feet hit the floor she was already tossing a fresh line of salt to close the circle. There was a soft but audible snap as it sealed. The ghost thrashed and flailed in the binding, slamming clawed fists into an invisible, but very tangible wall. There was no way it should fit in the little circle, but space did funny things at the edges, keeping it locked in place. Its gibberish shrieks grew fainter, sounding further away. Marissa grabbed the short step ladder from behind the counter, climbed up with the bucket and, careful not to disturb the circle, dumped it all over the ghost.

It began to melt. Rotten skin and warped bone ran runny as hot wax, the goat-skull of its head dissolved like a sandcastle in an incoming tide. A dark, colorless goop sloughed down the sides of the invisible barrier, collecting at the bottom and slowly drained away. Suggestions were revealed of a slim figure, young and feminine, in a severe dress. She seemed to be weeping. “Everyone’s got issues, lady,” Marissa said to herself, “But you don’t see me ruining your Tuesday night.” After a minute even that disappeared, leaving a dingy, viscous puddle and ring of damp salt. The lights went back to their normal, mundane flickering. The speakers played a new Taylor Swift remaster. Space returned to its regular dimensions. The smell of fetid water and rotten food remained, though.

Marissa put the ladder away and got out the mop and broom. She carefully swept up the sticky, crumbly detritus and dumped it in the trash, then mopped up as best she could and sprayed scented Lysol around the store. She righted the toppled shelving and put its contents back in order, making a note in the day book about damaged goods. She marked off a case of Modelo as being destroyed and put it in the back of her car. When she was done straightening up she sat on a milk crate out back of the store and watched the sun rise while she smoked. An hour later Luis came to relieve her.

He wrinkled his nose as he came in the door. “You have an incident, Marissa?”

“Yeah, nothing major.”

I dunno, it might be a better coda to end it here.

He sniffed again, noting the smell of stale water and salt. “The Captain again?”

“No, I think it was one of the witches.”

Captain Aldin or whatever? I thought he was pretty clearly just hated for hanging with the natives. I read that his trial transcript exists, but I haven’t perused it, so maybe there are some deets

“drat, that sucks. Hey, before you go can you run down to the basement and just clear a space for the Coke delivery?”

She scowled as she slung her bag over her shoulder, “No loving way, man." She shivered, "It’s creepy down there.”

The fight choreo is all clear and well defined, the monsters described in detail and while a few stereotypical things, there were some novel hell traps (I think)


:siren:Chernobyl Princess
Turn About is Fair Play

Kimmy didn’t need any of the surveillance spells or auguries she’d cast to know she was being hunted. Her pursuer wasn’t subtle. His off-white pickup truck stayed in her rearview all the way across the city, bright under the streetlights. She thought she’d lost him once, when she took an abrupt left turn without signaling and he got stuck at a traffic light, but he reappeared with remarkable speed.

It was hard to do magic while driving. Nobody is as good at splitting their focus as they think they are, and while Kimmy was tempted to think of herself as an exception to the rule, she really couldn’t afford to crash her boss’s car. She hadn’t signed herself over to serve and learn from one of the last dragons in exile just to wreck the old lady’s stuff. But she couldn’t drive around all night. She needed to know who it was following her.

Kimmy rummaged in the glove compartment. There was no way in her own vehicle she’d have anything useful, but working for the Dragon of Prophecy had its perks. Instinct made the woman a bit of a packrat, but foresight meant that she almost always had the perfect tool for any given task secreted away somewhere. Kimmy’s fingers closed around a small sample vial, the kind fountain pen enthusiasts kept fancy ink in, full of a sensory enhancement tincture. Perfect.

She swore as she dribbled the stinging liquid into her eyes at a stoplight. Then again as the world snapped into sharper focus. She’d trained for this, she knew how to sort through the sudden flood of sensory input, but that didn’t make it pleasant. She glared at her stalker in the rearview. White. Late twenties. Short hair, full lips. No particular expression on his face, just the blank focus of someone performing a task.

His aura, though. That was something else. It flared around his vehicle, enormous and menacing, pulsing red with some alien hunger. She’d seen things like this before, when her boss used her draconic nature to impact the world around her. What humans had to do with complex rituals and spells a dragon could do simply by willing it to be so.

Interesting. Why would a dragon be hunting her? She was, more or less, on their side. She reached out and touched his aura with her own magic, a soothing, gentle tendril of emotion insinuating itself against the raging fire. It felt like delicately brushing the back of ones hand against blistering cast-iron. The heat clung to her even as instinct demanded that she shrink away from it. Kimmy pulled back into herself with the unsettling feeling that she left something of herself behind.

Should be unsettling but intoxicating, set it up some more.

And maybe that was enough, because the dragon stopped following her shortly after that, turning the opposite direction and fading from her enhanced ability to see. Kimmy didn’t feel like breathing a sigh of relief. This probably wasn’t over.

It wasn’t over even sooner than she thought. That massive aura hung around her apartment like a caul, almost visible even as she approached her door. Kimmy glowered at the lock. Her first-stage wards hadn’t been tripped. They’d been unmade.

It’s funnier without the ***, I think. Like no break in time. And you really didn’t need a scene change for clarity. She escaped, she went home. That’s easy to follow.

“I know you’re out there,” the voice was deep, resonant, and arrogant. “You’ve got a really unsettling number of dildos, lady.”

Kimmy sighed and pushed open her door, walking into her apartment. The lights were dimmed by bolts of sheer fabric, except for the twinkling strands of fairy lights she’d strung around the walls. It was a snug, warm, cozy space. And there was a strange man standing over by her bookshelf, flipping through her books and putting them back in the shelf with the spines facing in. What an rear end. “They’re containers,” Kimmy said, tossing her purse nonchalantly onto a chair. Don’t show fear. Don’t show weakness. That’s what he’s waiting for. “For spell energy. In case I need an extra boost, you know?”

In a world like this, is fairy lights an insulting term? Or by the end are we going to see Tinkerbell dryhumping one?

The man turned and gave her an incredulous look. “So, what, do you have to have them inside you to cast?”

Kimmy gave a short laugh. “No. I just live next to a porn store and they’re cheaper than crystals. Now who the gently caress are you and why the gently caress are you in my house?”

The man shrugged and turned back to the shelf. “Name’s Thomas. You work for someone I want to hurt.”
Given the thrust of the rest of the story, hurt is kind of a brusque word. Someone I want to take down, or I dunno, dethrone, or he was just hired so they can be rivals and fuckbuddies with a more ambiguous conflict between them

Kimmy leaned back, her shoulder thumping against the wall. She looked him over. He was of medium height and above average build, with scarred, muscular arms and an rear end that told her he did not skip leg day. Okay. She could work with this. “I’m a dragon knight. Technically I work for you too.”

Thomas shook his head. “Not really good enough.” He turned to her desk and opened a drawer, riffled through it. The next drawer was locked. “You got a key for this?”

“If I say no, are you going to break it?” He nodded. She sighed and rolled her eyes. “If you tell me what you’re looking for maybe I can just, like, hand it to you and you can leave, since apparently you’re not here to get revenge by hurting me physically.”

“I thought about it,” he admitted. “But it seemed kind of trite. You’re a dragon knight, sworn to the Dragon of Prophecy and Family. She’d have given you a piece of her collection to seal the deal. That’s what I’m after. I’m gonna take it, corrupt it, gently caress up y’all’s whole thing. It’s not personal. Well. Not personal to you, at least. She can get hosed.”

Yeah, no, that couldn’t happen. He was being so blatant about his plans, clearly he thought Kimmy wasn’t capable of stopping him. She considered him for a moment, a plan taking shape.

“Sounds boring,” she said. “Counteroffer, what if I get hosed.”

He eyed her. Kimmy shifted position, arms down, one foot up on the wall behind her, subtly pushing her chest and hips forward. His eyes lingered where she wanted them to linger, and didn’t drift toward her fingers as she began tapping a series of spells against the wall.

“I don’t come cheap,” he said.

“Few worthwhile things are. But think about this, you could try to steal some trinket. Or you could try to steal me. Think about it, wouldn’t it be more interesting to not just corrupt the bond, but to sever it completely? To steal me out from under her?” She grinned at him, wickedly. “Maybe I’d like it better under you, anyway.”

A little fire lit up behind his eyes, but he was still cautious. “Interesting thought. I don’t know what I’d even do with a knight.”

“Who cares?”

Thomas walked over to her, a slow, predatory lope, until they were almost touching. “I don’t have a collection,” he whispered, tracing a finger up the back of her arm. “I don’t have any pretty trinkets to trade for loyalty.”

“Trinkets aren’t what I’m after,” Kimmy whispered back. She pressed into him, her chest against his, soaking in his heat. “You know what I’m after.” Her arms circled his shoulders as her lips found the side of his neck. She inhaled the scent of him, wild and masculine and dangerous. And as his hands wrapped around her waist to carry her to the bed, the delicate net of her spell fell over them both.

I mean, this can be metaphorical, but it sounds a little problematic, even fighting the forces of evil. Like the wall tapping spell at that point feels more like a charm than a power up or shield to protect Kimmy from his aura. You know, so it can be completely consensual, then she binds him and “tortures” (in whatever way fits) him for info.


It had been too long since Thomas had been able to really let loose. The dragon knight, Kimmy whatever-her-name-was, was one of the most insanely responsive partners he’d had. He wasn’t sure she’d make him a good knight, but she’d sure make a good fuckbuddy. This was all going so much better than he had planned.

You could have Thomas mention feeling her caressing his aura and comment on her power, surprising for a human; and query about how long the sensory enhancement potion lasts before he, you know, takes care of her needs. He might be an rear end in a top hat, but he’s not a monster

But the second the first rope of his cum splashed against Kimmy’s chest Thomas knew something was wrong. No candles flared, no sigils shone, but he could feel something move in his soul, something invasive and strangling.

Oh, like 17000 words into the week and there’s the first splash of cum. He knew his mission was to get the DoP’s trinket and corrupt it, maybe it would have been a little better if there was a piece of the DoP in the trinkets instead of just implying they’ve been enchanted. So the turnaround with binding him with semen was a little more spelled out. Or uh, Kimmy rubs it into her chest and draws a sigil.

“What… what did you…” he tried to speak through the convulsing, horrible pleasure, unable to prevent himself from spilling more across the pretty witch’s tits. She smiled at him, all teeth now.

Good reversal with the teeth

“You wanted to ruin me?” She purred. “You wanted to corrupt me? Sweet, pretty, innocent me?” She snapped her fingers and he was thrown back, flailing, his limbs unresponsive to his need. “Sorry, Dragon of Fuckbois. Turns out I’m good at this.”

He struggled to his feet, snarling. He could feel the web of her magic around him now, a delicate net of spell work that bound him more tightly the harder he fought it.

“You can undo this, given time,” Kimmy said. “Your aura, it’s fascinating, it’s eating away at my spell second by second. But you’re in my place of power, Tommy, and as you mentioned earlier, I’ve got a truly astonishing amount of energy stored here. So. We’re going to talk. And you’re going to tell me exactly why you’re here and what you had planned.”

I wish Thomas’s motivation was hinted at—Kimmy doesn’t know if there are factions of good and evil dragons, so seeding a couple clues would have been nice. I never thought I’d say this, but I wish the sex scene was a little hornier rather than a power play.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 577 Read along crits by post order

The Last Nights of the Shepherd

The Shepherd of Night is wavering.

At first we think it's just fatigue, the kind familiar to everyone who works nights in the Pit. It's even funny, in a way, to watch the Shepherd go about its rounds with that leaden gait and downcast eyes -- we love it in those days, as we've never loved it when it's delivered us the day shift's scraps with a strong stride and a carved-stone smile. The Shepherd provides adequately, but barely enough is never enough.

OK, no idea what’s going on here, maybe it’s a story about rats watching a human—it’s evocative and interesting.

What the day shift gives us now is even less than barely enough. The food left behind in the iceboxes is sparse and often stale or near-spoiled; it's as if day shift is eating everything they can simply so we cannot have it, and when the Shepherd drags itself back and forth from the storerooms, it reveals little but the oldest emergency rations. (The kitchens have not been staffed at night since our fathers' time in the Pit.) What day shift fails to leave us in provisions, they make up in problems: broken equipment, half-finished orders, work so overflowing that dozens of us spend all night cleaning up the day's messes. We whisper, as we always do, about leaving it all in place for them to find in the morning, but we know the truth as well as day shift does: for the work to continue, night shift must finish what day shift leaves behind.

Alrighty, post apoc I guess. Fuggin day shift

The work must continue. We delve down into the Pit, hands as steady on the lift-ropes as we can make them, and surface again with the bounty the Pit offers. On weary legs, we haul it to the processing and packaging offices, who always have just enough nails to close the crates. Clerks sit at desks left filthy and sticky, filling out ledgers with defiantly pin-neat hand. The carriagemen drive it all in the dead of night into the sleeping town, to our comrades in the bakeries and greengrocers, who wait to feed the hungry morning populace. We feed ourselves with the stale bread in the iceboxes, sharing the butter and coffee that a few generous souls bring in, and on our breaks we close our eyes for a respite from the dull chemical light of the Shepherd's lamps. Before dawn, we leave at last, out into a sleeping world with little to welcome us -- a few sad bars and restaurants, but no libraries, no parks, no dance-halls. The only comfort for the night shift is home, even when all it offers us is sleep.

So it continues, for a while: just barely worse than it was. Soon, we think, this new decline will be normal, and we will forget this indignity as we have every other.

Welp, maybe it’s an Amazon warehouse

And then the Shepherd stumbles.

It's early in the shift, in one of the entry corridors crowded with shuffling bodies. When the Shepherd stops in its tracks, we stop with it, sluggish minds recognizing vaguely that something is wrong; when it pitches forward, those of us underneath it thankfully have enough panic left in us to leap clear. Nobody screams, as if screaming wouldn't be enough. The lights above dim, flicker, and snap back to life with a buzz. The Shepherd is on its knees, stone flaking off of its cracked legs, and underneath is something spongy. "Meat," one of the gawkers says at last. "Pit-meat."

Pit-meat. I guess it could be an actual meat pit, or like a missile silo that has supplies (and also radioactive ghouls) but the only thing that might fit flour and greengrocer and meat is a mushroom. It’s a sentient fungus golem.

We don't admit surprise. Surprise is not enough, and night shift in the Pit is enough to dull the mind to the unusual. One of us could have killed the Shepherd right there, if the rush of malice had taken us over then, and the rest would have stared and shrugged and shuffled off, to let the fear find us at our desks or in our descent harnesses later, or on the long pre-dawn journey home. The Shepherd was breakable -- was that such a surprise? It was something that distant fathers of fathers had built, back when the Pit offices were new, and a thing that they could build, we could surely break. But we liked the Shepherd, these days. It was one of us, more than it had ever been. Who might have broken it?

Day shift, of course. They have their own Shepherds, newer and brighter, but when did that ever stop them? Day shift takes merely so that night shift will lack. Day shift fails simply to make night shift struggle. We all know this, the way we know the routes to our work stations, like the slow relentless beating of our hearts. Day shift, we whisper. There needs to be a reckoning.

None of us alone is brave enough to do it. But after the shift where the Shepherd spends half the night on the floor, struggling to right itself and oozing from a dozen fresh gouges, we are of one mind, and brave enough together.

We arrive en masse two hours before night shift begins. The sky is dark and overcast, a night-before-night: a good omen for those of us who live in the dark, we decide, as we file in. Day shift swarms the halls like locusts, tracking filth from muddy feet, gorging on fresh fruit and leaving drippings in their wake -- but fruit is not all they gorge on. The Night Shepherd, our Shepherd, lies prostrate in the hallway, borne down by the weight of a dozen day-shift bodies, teeth carving out layers of stone and clay to reach the meat within. The brilliant day-shift lamps above flicker and sputter. The Shepherd lows, the first noise we've ever heard it make, from a mouth that ought not to produce any sound.

We close ranks. We charge.

Our bodies move as one, but our minds are in chaos. Our Shepherd is dying; more and more stone falls away, revealing flesh already hollowed out by day shift's hunger. Our Shepherd, our guide -- who will light our way into the Pit, now? Some think of our own hungry nights instead, of the soft flesh revealed, and howl with a fresh new grief: why was the Shepherd not ours to eat? Gluttons and thieves!

We fall on them in a wave, some pulling the day shift away from the Shepherd, others racing in to feast upon what's left. Few of us think of the endless work still to be done, of the town that feeds on what we bring up from the Pit, but why should we? The town never feeds us back. This is for us and us alone, and whether the work goes on or not is no longer our concern. The lamps die and leave us in the black. It feels right.

When the Shepherds of the Day come, we sink our teeth into their fresh clay. We will take back what is ours from day shift at last.

It’s short on answers, long on speculation, but there isn’t a clearer conflict than some have food and others don’t. The battle isn’t much of a battle, it’s simply an act of revenge/rebellion. It works for the story, I guess, so the greedy can start eating night shift’s one thing, but why do the Shepherds arrive so long after the day shift? It doesn’t seem like they can currently control the Shepherds, so I would assume day shift wouldn’t show up for work until the Shepherds are ready to go to the Pit, like those day shifters would. It plays out nearly the same if the Day Shepherds are destroyed before the people arrive, but they arrive to complete darkness in confusion and dismay and ‘The lamps die…It feels right.’ ends it instead. It’s I guess just a nitpicky suggestion based on trying to puzzle out the world.

The Other Road

Tabitha looked like hell. Hair matted with blood, glass shards wedged in her cheeks and neck, left elbow dangling bent backwards. Right hand stretched out, thumb up. I pulled over, popped open the passenger door lock. We go way back.

Hell of an opener.
She doesn't have to look like that.She has lots of looks for every kind of purpose. The CW drama version of herself, a dead sexy twenty-eight year old actor playing her teenage self when she's looking for a quick screw. The real thing, with the prom dress and corsage and the angry little zit on her forehead, when she's doing the vanishing hitchhiker bit on some kids. Herself if she'd been aging naturally when she just wants to talk. This one, though. This one meant trouble.

I could have driven on by. I had business that shouldn't wait long in Fort Myers. But she'd have just shown up on the side of the road a half mile down, then a half mile after that. Eventually someone else would have seen her, and who knows how that would have gone.

"Doug," she said. "It's the road."

"What about the road?" I said.

"Road's sick."

"Going to turn the tables, eh?" I said. "Heave up into someone's car?"

She punched my shoulder. "Sick sick," she said. She'd cleaned herself up, moved to close to her real age. I guess. I never asked, rude and all that. She died before safety glass windshields, all I'm sure of. Maybe it was an old car already by then. It was one of those faces lucky people get to wear from forty-five to eighty. "Like, maybe dying. We're all scared."

The thing about roads is that they're all haunted. A new house, if you don't build it over graves, is probably ghost free. Roads, though, all of them are paved with blood and souls. Most of them start as war paths, migration routes, hunting trails, forced marches. Even the trade routes had their share of ambushes up and down them. Then we worked poor sods to death paving them up, and drive at speeds that exact a bloody toll every year. Haunted, haunted with a crowd. That's a healthy road.

"Where's the problem, love?" I said.

"Twelve miles ahead. Nihogg Tunnel." I hit the accelerator.

"That one's new, right?" I saw her nod in the reflection on my front glass. She looks more solid in reflection than directly,somehow. The old tunnel was too narrow for more than one lane of truck traffic each way, put a bottleneck in the whole regional economy. The geologists said expanding it was a bad idea, but that didn't stop them from trying. At least there wasn't traffic going through when it collapsed. So, a new tunnel. Right through something the geologists didn't know about.

"Seems like I was headed that way already," I said. I knew there was something in that area. It's like a kind of itch in the back of your soul.

So like, do ghosts refer to their entire ethereal form as their soul? Even if Tabitha in incorporeal, if she can change her outward appearance, that’s not really changing her soul. I guess it’s choosing to present one aspect of herself rather then the whole, so where does the rest go? Or maybe a soul sea cucumber situation. I should probably take a break if I’m going this hard on ghost logic

World's haunted. The dead outnumber the living, and the afterlife resorts are all exclusive. You got to be real bad to get to hell, real good to get to heaven, and the rest of us just linger. Me, I've got a pocket full of tickets to hades and another full of get out free cards. I figure the guy with the face full of teeth will lay them all out alongside my heart and the feather, and I'll slip out while he's doing the math. Not like I was using the old ticket for anything but keeping my blood flowing anyhow.

Wasn't long before I reached the new tunnel. There was an energy coming from it, pale green auras, not the honest red of ghosts like Tabitha. Who wasn't there any more, don't blame her. When you can just stop being corporeal, let the Cadillac go on without you rather than face what's ahead...

Not an aura expert so I had to do a quick look, and pale green is enlightenment, growth, healing etc. I guess in character, it makes sense that the action part of the red aura is more honest to Doug, but she also shifts her outward appearance and playing pranks. The healing and concern for the road seems more pale green and an honesty from Tabitha’s perspective, and the darker shades are associated with transformation (up to moving spiritual planes). I dunno, I guess it’s like you can almost read anything you want from them.

I saw him. Usual thing. What wasn't usual was that about half the other drivers could too. He wasn't manifesting. He was just too strange to ignore, deep down. I pulled up, shouted at him. Not really any words, just a primal 'Oi'. Took three of those to get his attention, and that was just to mutter at me in one of those languages the snake handlers tap into. Words deep in the bones of the continent.

Waidaminit, didn’t derp just write a snake handler story
World dragon is just upping the ante/i

My brother-in-law has been known to touch a snake, to speak in a tongue or two. The real deal. I've heard Etruscan and Nsibidi with proper grammar come out of his mouth. Turns out it was banal stuff, hunting instructions and a husband chewing out his wife. Nothing spiritual. But still impressive. And I've also heard this language from him, issuing commands to dead soldiers. And a spell or too. Had to get him to stop that nonsense quick, before he summoned something or set his house on fire.

Point is, I understood his words. "Where are you, my King? My service has not waned. I stand ready to conquer."

"Your King's dead, mate," I said. I don't speak what he does, just understand it. But I can make my own words make sense. "You too."

"Death is nothing," he said. "At the end of this road is victory."

"Sure," I said. "You know which way?"

And then I drove away. Figure he's raging still. His type can't bear the thought of retreat. He'll be stuck until he's sure, and before that I'll be back, with a proper squad to exorcize him into a bottle, seal off whatever hole he came in through, maybe loot those pre-Siberian Transit ruins. Next week's problem.

Right then, Tabitha was thumbing it a half mile past the tunnel's end, looking a dead sexy thirty-five, the same hypothetical CW show actor in the last season rather than the first, and I wasn't too proud to give her a ride to the next rest area down.

Yeah, so it’s lead up with an ending that’s before the real action. You set up a lot of fun stuff with the ghost roads and underworld hall passes, just punking on Anubis. But the sick road isn’t resolved at that’s a disappointment. How do ghost cars work?


Night Hunt

****blanked by request****

Aside from some light ribbing about a few details, well written and clear. Protag knows what they want and they get it. The devil gets most of what they want too without being especially damaged, so can’t complain too much.[/i]


:siren:Vinny Possum

Chapalli woke up on the empty dance floor of the club. The room was dark, except a small section of the bar where half a dozen or so men were engaged in a drunken bout of gambling. He pulled himself to his feet, then had to catch himself, swaying for a moment. Still drunk. He ran his hands through the inside of his cape, checking his pockets. Wallet, keyes, papers. Watch still on his left wrist, plugs still resting in his earlobes. No one had taken anything.

Classic start of waking up after a lost night, but he wears a fuggin cape, yes

He exhaled, and tried to piece together the night. He had made it here with a few of his fellow exchange students and a couple local boys who suggested the spot. Club Caracal. It had been a welcome relief from the bars that catered to tourists and expats, with none of the cold, suspicious front that the locals usually gave foreigners. They had danced and drank, he had met a girl, a decent Cahuacl speaker at that. Things got fuzzy after that. There was a memory he couldn't quite grasp of insisting that he'd be fine if his friends wanted to head back to the university without him, and of buying another bottle of brandy. To split? For himself? The harder he tried to get specifics, the more his head hurt.

He couldn't understand a word coming from the bar. Even if he had been sober, the men, mostly rough looking younger guys with shaved heads, certainly weren't, and were slurring their words too heavily for his meager command of Qazi to parse a thing. Better to not disturb them, and just slip out.

Maybe I’m showing my ignorance here, but I can’t pin this stuff down, caracal are central Asian cats, that’s fine. And Qazi is from the same rough region, but it’s a sausage, not a language? And the best guess is Cahuacl is Cahuaci from Peru, which fine, other foreigners and exchange students could be in the local dive, so maybe it’s the cool place that doesn’t cater to but also doesn’t mind the tourists. But it’s all a little puzzling to me?

The door was still unlocked. He opened it, just enough to squeeze through quietly. Outside, it was pouring. He cinched up his cape. He wished he had brought the thick one with the hood. This was his nice cape. He sighed, and stumbled into the downpour.

He’s a capes and cloaks all the time guy
With no other real concrete description, I’m picturing tuxedo mask with 50mm plugs. It’s a good look (though I find tunnels disconcerting, glad that wasn’t the option you went with)

This part of the city was a maze. Streets ran at odd angles, a web of unregulated development. He knew the university was only two or three kilometers away, and he plunged ahead.

Less than fifteen minutes later, soaked and shivering, he realized he had no idea where he was. The streets were deserted, besides the occasional beggar or vagrant sleeping fitfully in a covered alcove or doorway. Neon signs floated hazily in his vision, illuminating the streets with a dim light advertising shops and services that would be closed and dark for hours yet. He squinted to try to make sense of them in his swimming vision. Appliance repair, something he couldn't quire translate but that seemed to be clothing for teenagers for coming of age ceremonies, imported smokables and liquors. None of the street signs were familiar, when they were present at all.

He was freezing. The rain was never this cold in Tapaliccan. He wished he had brought his thicker cape again. There was a small bus stop shelter just down the street. That would have a map, and mercifully, it wasn't occupied by a sleeping transient.

We get, capes

The bus stop did have a map, but the map assumed the reader would know where they were. Chapalli sighed. He considered wringing out his cape, using it as a blanket, and passing out here. If he got robbed, the embassy could replace his papers, and the university had a copy on hand and he only had…

He went through his wallet. Two hundred thirty Tibal. Fuzzy math told him that was about sixty or so bucks. It would sting a little, but not even enough to call home and ask for more about. His parents would be furious, of course, better not to let them know this ever happened.

OK, I’m getting the sense that maybe you created fictional countries and currencies? That’s fine, I guess try to make sure you avoid coincidences that will have funny results, as you’ll see later, or slang for money like bucks. Make up a new word for consistency.

A truck sped past, dousing him with dirty water and shaking him from introspection. Maybe there was a reason no one slept here.

As he stood up and tried to wring his cape out, he saw a sign across the street. “Bagam 24-hour”. There was one of these near the university, he had been there often with his friends on late night beer runs. The convenience store would have hot drinks, and food. Might as well warm up somewhere dry before trying to wait out the night.

A bell rang as he entered. A bored girl sat behind the counter, in her early twenties, about his age, not even up from a magazine as he entered.

“H-hello” he stumbled over the foreign words a bit. This was so easy in class, but much harder in person “Could I get a…”

The girl looked up and gave a sudden squeak of scandalized surprise. Chapalli realized his cape was hanging open, only his loincloth leaving a little to imagination between his bare, bronze chest and legs. He pulled it closed quickly cursing himself for forgetting the differing dress standards in the colder south.

Well, there we go. Tuxedo mask has gone Conan the barbarian

“Deepest apologies.” He stepped back from the counter and gave a half bow. By then the girl had regained her composure, looking as embarrassed as he felt.

“Kahve?” she asked.

Coffee, just what he was looking for.

“Please miss, thank you for the hospitality.” he knew it was overly formal, but decided to err against over familiarity.

She turned to where several bubbling glass kettles sat on hot plates. The smell of the coffee was the strongest, but he could also see two types of tea and what he guessed was the local holly-leaf drink. Without looking back she filled a paper cup with coffee, and reached for a jug of milk. He panicked a bit.

Oh dear god, the coffee and tea stays boiling all day?!

“No, none please!”

She looked at him incredulously.

“No milk?”

He rubbed his stomach and made an unpleasant face, hoping she got the idea. She laughed a little, and put the milk away.


“Cahuacli.” he corrected her “Close, but no, Tapaliccani.”

Her face showed she had no idea what he was talking about. He shrugged.

“Yeah, Cahuacli.”

Her face lit up a bit, and she yelled something into the back room. When there was no immediate answer she held up a finger for him to wait. He set down a few coins on the table. Ten tibal should cover the coffee. He looked around the small shop for something to eat. Dried meats, potato chips… he wanted something hot. There was some sort of porridge sitting in a hot well behind the counter. Six tibal. He put down ten more, just to be safe.

The girl came back, dragging a reluctant boy in his early teens, clearly a younger brother. She made a motion as if to say “talk to him”.

The boy looked him up and down.

“Good morning, good meet.” he mumbled. His sister elbowed him again. “I am learning your speech in school, she wants me to show off.”
The boy's speech was hesitant and accented, but clear and understandable. He was clearly a good student. Chapalli held out his hand.

“Chapalli, First of May.”

"Ghanibal. Ghanibal Kuvan. My sister is Ghanibalit Verinit.”

The sister said something again, and the boy rolled his eyes.

“She says you can call her Verta, if you want.”

Chapalli smiled. He knew he had worn his nice cape for a reason.

“Pleased to meet you both.” he motioned toward the porridge. “Could I get some of that?”

“Kuager.” The boy said

“Yeah, Cuacuel.” he tried to get his tongue around the harder consonants. He was sobering up, but not enough to get it right.

The girl, Verta, poured a cup of the porridge. It was thin, but smelled savory as he took it and the coffee.

“Fourteen.” she counted out change for him, but he waved it off.

“Keep it, I'm just happy something is open."

The boy snatched the leftover coins off the table before his sister could take them.

Chapalli sipped the coffee, and downed the porridge. It was good, some blend of oats and buckwheat, sweetened a little with beets and spiced with bits of peppers. He already felt better with something warm in his stomach.

“She says you can stay and dry off if you need to.”


Verta gestured towards a restroom behind the beaded curtain separating the backroom from the sales floor. Chapalli’s heart beat a little faster. Was this what he thought it was? He didn’t expect any Qazi girls to be THAT easy.

Here it is—””Qazı is a traditional sausage-like food of Kazakhs, Tatars, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and other Turkic or Central Asian ethnic groups.””
He didn’t expect sausage girls to be easy

It wasn’t, and she wasn’t. He stood in front of the door for a second, wondering if she was coming in with him. She shook her head, pushing a warm, dry bathrobe into his hands, pushing him into the bathroom, and shutting the door. He could hear a stifled giggle on the other side. Disappointed, but also a little relieved, he stripped off his cape and got into the robe. It was soft and comfortable, if a little small. He wondered if it was her dad’s or maybe an adult brother’s. Either would probably be bad news if they came back and saw him in it. Still, it was nice to be dry and cozy.

He exited the bathroom. Verta took his cape and hung it up near the stove, after wringing it out a bit. She invited him to sit in front of the counter, and he did. Conversation was awkward at first, mostly in Cahuacl with Kuvan reluctantly translating in exchange for a few more coins. Chapalli tried to get a few words in Qazi in, but that generally just got the siblings snickering at his pronunciations and telling him he was very good at it, before Kuvan would switch back to being middleman. There was a pretty glint in Verta’s eyes when she would laugh, and Chapalli loved how she stared into his when told them about where he was from, Tapaliccan, not the more famous Cahuacl City. The mention of his hometown excited Kuvan, who snatched his sister’s magazine, and pointed to a cologne ad.

“You know Metlouca 19th of June?”

I like the date/surname convention. That’s pretty cool.

Chapalli laughed. Of course he didn’t know the ballplayer personally, but like every boy who had grown up in Tapaliccan he had a signed poster, and watched the Tapaliccan Devils’ games religiously. Kuvan looked slightly disappointed but was suddenly much more engaged in the conversation.

What felt like minutes later, but what surely longer, the sun was starting to come up. Chapalli noticed Verta catch something in the corner of her eye. She pulled the visitor to his feet and pushed him back behind the curtain. Kuvan followed.

“Stay!” Verta rushed back out to the counter.

There were loud, threatening male voices, and what sounded like Verta trying to apologize and deflect. Then there was the sound of glass smashing, and the salesgirl giving a startled yelp. Chapalli tried to go back out, but Kuvan held him back.

“No, you’ll just make it worse. They’ll leave soon.” he whispered.

Peeking through the curtain, Chapalli could make out two men who at first took for policemen, until he realized their uniforms were wrong. Seeing the tattoos on their arms, endless lines of text probably listing ancestors or some such thing, he recognized the type from dramas back home. Cold eyed, mean paramilitaries, one of the most common stock tropes assigned to Qazi characters in cinema and TV.

True to the boy’s word, they were on their way out. When they left, Chapalli slipped back out. Verta was shaken, but unharmed, sweeping up broken glass from one of the newsstands. There were a pile of patriotic posters on the counter now, as well as a framed portrait of the Qazi Generalissimo Gamol.

“You should go.” Verta said, through her brother as she dumped the glass in a dustbin. She slipped a map into his hands, with the university circled in red, and a phone number scrawled on the edge in the same ink. She composed herself, letting her hands linger a little as she handed him his cape. “You’ll come back though, to bring the robe back?”
She smiled a little, even as her brother made sure to emphasize the last part more than the first.

“Sure.” Chapalli smiled back, then slipped out into the brightening street. He was less than a kilometer from the University this whole time, and in the morning sun he could see its tower poking above the roofline around him. He’d definitely be back.

OK, maybe you could have had a paramilitary guy pick him up and throw him out of the bar at the beginning so it’s a callback and we already know about the danger and the info is front loaded so all you have to say at the end is Chap saw the tattoos and we’re there in an oh, poo poo moment.

Cuz what are they doing there? It’s the first time we hear about political unrest and it’s 200 words from the end. The meetcute stuff is all pretty good, and overcoming the language barriers, and even lactose intolerance is a funny moment. All the frivolous stuff I like. There’s no tension since the little brother is an instant translator though. You can mine the misunderstandings for comedy.

Otherwise, if the Generalissimo is planning a coup (since paramilitary is not official govt) then that’s a big detail to hide away, and certainly doesn’t seem like the place where expats and tourists would be barhopping.

If some uncouth military guys have checkpoints up or are patrolling, then that creates tension during the first half with Chap trying to avoid being stopped and questioned or even blocked from getting to school.

But it’s just a guy going, no I was definitely NOT robbed. Still, it’s amusing, but it could have been way better

The Cut of Your Jib fucked around with this message at 22:01 on Aug 28, 2023

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Toaster Beef posted:

1) Thank you for the kind words and constructive criticism, I really appreciate it

2) gently caress, is it Thunderdome/CC policy to include trigger warnings? My sincerest apologies to anybody and everybody if that's the case. Even if it isn't, I should've thought about it.

I don't know that it's official policy, and I didn't know quite how to word it either. Like I wouldn't put a warning on a generic hitman gun story, or even a story about a suicide. It's the fixation and fantazing ways to do it that sets off my concern for readers

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

yeah, sceINce

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 578 Submission

The Humour of it All
1242 Words

Haima spun a spicy tarantella, skirts whirling, spaghetti straps floating like the rings of Saturn around a set of lean, tatted shoulders. The sonogram bass pulsed through the heels of all in the room, but no one else danced.

Chole grazed the buffet in the proper way they had been taught—fill up on crab legs and shrimp scampi and whatever else was the most expensive. With a frown, they flicked a bit of that crab innard mustard off their plate and it plopped in the untouched creamed corn, cleverly disguised.

Phlema slouched against the jamb, double doors in the gothic style of high school gymnasium, one propped open with a dirty wooden wedge, the other locked tight with a drop bar latch. They cupped a hand over their nose to disguise a stealth-thumb-pick-n-flick, but no one was watching anyway.

Melaina sat crosslegged in the corner, their own nose buried in a book. It was Camus or Kafka or whatever the saddest and most alienating book you can think of. Invariably, whatever they were reading was sadder. You might expect Melaina to be wearing a The Cure t-shirt or some such, but they were as looking in a mirror, even if you do have Robert Smith hair.

The beat quickened and Haima’s toes tapped with the precision of a machine press, faster and faster without fault. Then the music stopped. Melaina raised an eyebrow but not her gaze as the floor opened and Haima fell through.

Whirling became whooshing and their skirts tangled and tightened to the fletching of a tranq dart, pushing them through the darkness until they were birthed onto a run of salt flats, punctuated only by the occasional jut of a reed. They were about to say ‘well, this is not how I expected the day to go” when Haima saw the giants. Beaks like sythes and button eyes, tall collars and taller hats, the third eye brighter than the sun waving a cold elephant’s trunk, mouthless monsters of green skin and squeaky flesh—visages onion-skinned on top of each other, fanning like a trick shuffle.

Haima was overcome with the urge to run, but their skirts were caught in the subtle cracks and the more Haima scrabbled, the longer the skirts became, until they could no longer see from where they arrived, just a scarlet thread dangling from the horizon. And all the brightness faded from their dress and from the world and from their vision as Haima fell through the sky.

“Well, that was not how I expected the day to go,” said Chole and turned back to the grub as the beat began again, a quiet swish of hi-hats before the bass kicked in. From the walls and ceiling the party streamers fell and tornadoed until Haima was back on the parquet.

“There were giants and a beach and, and an expanse like I’ve never seen, and there were giants!”

“A flight of fancy, like all your travel stories,” murmured Malaina. Phlema snorted and scraped something from under a nail. It was true, whether the rest believed it or not that Haima raced up and down the highways and byways with the alacrity of a sprinter and the tunnel vision of a marathoner. Smelling the roses was never part of the itinerary, even as they collected themselves and tucked a long-stemmed baccara behind their ear.

The skirts were a long trailed ball gown, a glittered waterfall draped into the hole still in the floor. But happy feet is happy feet, and it was only a moment before Haima danced again, gracefully circling the breach as a partner.

The music shifted, off, like a waltz waiting for the drop. Then Phlema stumbled from their cool greaser pose as a gust pushed them into the room. The ground shook with a crescendo of snares and tympani. As Chole and the rest blinked the fireworks from their eyes, Phlema was gone—only a whistle of a musty breeze to remind them.

“Not again,” said Chole through a rift of acid and shifted the plate to the other hand.

“Exactly how I expected the day to go,” dripped Malaina.

The prom’s worth of party balloons pulsed with a damp shine then shriveled ever so, a raisiny dullness to the silver and periwinkle canopy. With another rickety shake of the room, Phlema was in the doorway once more, just as shaken. “I saw them. Giants. Unflinching colossi.”

Haima extended their hand, and Phlema took it. They glanced at the others as the wind took them. Haima’s gown trailed down the hallway and cascaded into the pit. It might be a trick of the light, but Chole noted the shimmer of sequins fade.

Much like before, they were back. Haima’s dress now a ball of yarn laced through the labyrinth and tangled around Phlema, the world’s laziest Halloween mummy.

The music sputtered in unsynced syncopation, then stopped. You can imagine a record scratch if you like, but there wasn’t one. Phlog was in the doorway, exuding big vice-principal energy. “Wrap it up, party’s over,” he said with a finalizing clap of his hands.

Chole put down the plate, and joined Haima and Phlema. They nodded to each other, and took hands in an open square, waiting.

Malainia snapped the book shut and finally looked up, eyes resting on Phlog. “It’s time then?”

Phlog rested his hands on his thick leather belt. “You know it is.”

Malainia stood and hobbled to the rest, unable to work the pins and needles from their ankles. Perhaps the distraction was for the best.

Haima lunged at the portly shadow in the door but the tangles kept them in place and they collapsed in a heap. “It’s not curfew yet, they still haven’t played my favorite song. Just a few more minutes . . . please.” They wriggled with petulance as Chole reached out and caressed a shoulder.

“No sense getting weepy about it,” said Malaina, tears blooming in the corners of their eyes. If you took notice, there were always hints of little diamonds catching the light there.

Before Phlema could make a quip under their breath, they were gone. Phlogiston snapped some beefy fingers and the balloons shriveled into broiled shrinkydinks. The streamers caught fire and the edges of the parquet dance floor blackened to charcoal. Haima raged, but too, was gone.

There was silence. Malaina thought they might be the last, to sit in the dark for eternity, for they felt a push from every whichway that was more of Malaina but from the outside. Then they felt a fading. It was slower than the blink of ceasing like Phlema and Haima, but it came.

Chole was alone for a moment. Then through the charred remains of the dance hall, Chole lumbered for the back door as fast as they could. Gone.


The four danced, Haima, Phlema, Chole, and Malainia. Precise and in time, trading partners freely between them on a clean floor that sparkled with wax. The balloons didn’t need netting, they floated on helium fresh from the tank, streamers dangled and spiraled in the cool breeze from the spring air. Even Chole was light on their feet, cutting lithe lines around the checkerboard. Haima wore a romper in candy apple red. Phlema didn’t sneak it when they dug for gold.

Malainia smiled at the friends, and would smile for a good long time, but in the corner of their eyes, they felt the first jab of little diamonds.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you


The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 579 Submission

Kid shoulda bought drill bit teeth.
1600 words

It must have been my strict Catholic upbringing, ten years in a clapboard school more linoleum than subfloor, where wimple nuns rapped your knuckles with whittled sticks for looking out the window you just scrubbed; but when Colditz flipped the tarp off the bed of the rusted out pickup truck and presented a patch of rotten pumpkins and pipecleaners, all I said under the breath I desperately tried to hold but once it was gone no way I wanted it back was, “Sheezus.”

“It’s him, all right. Clothes IDed from their final performance.” Colditz waved their coroner-grade grabby claw towards a wilted vine. The grim dolma nestled a bedazzled cylinder. “Signature diamond-studded vape. Worth more than a year of my salary.”

The doc traced qi up to the blue ribbon gourd. “This seals the deal. No mistaking the custom dental implants.” I dared a look and sure enough. Glinting like two silver grubs poking through the first frost with no hope of escape, canines styled as vampire teeth. “Platinum. Ridiculous choice.” They lifted what I now realized was a lip and waggled the grabber. “This one was bent in what I presume was the struggle that landed him here. Of course, titanium is obvious, but for my money, or his as the case may be, I’d go tungsten carbide. Holds a polish better, too.”

“Thanks, doc.” I palmed them the last of my wad, grateful I’d never want to eat again.

Colditz grabbed the clipboard from the top of the cab and wandered up the hill towards the pig pen. The hogs already got their slop. “Flatbed’s on its way, ten minutes.”

I raised my trusty reflex and things never look as bad through the parallax. Come on, just do it, a couple snaps will set you up, let you relax for a spell. The camera dropped and rested on the beginnings of a middle-aged gut. “Dammit . . . Sorry, Sister.”

There’dbe a country-wide gnashing of plastic vampire teeth once the teenyboppers caught the pop idol murdered headlines, and my scandal rag of choice would at least pixellate it to a Mondrian, but the raws get out, they always do. Make the dark web a little darker. Far cry from the days of FDR and the polite paparazzo pool. Ahcourse, the word wasn’t even invented then. I don’t know if Fellini would be find it hideous or it would appeal to his idiosyncracies. Hideosyncrasy.

My placid reflection was interrupted by the breakwater giving up the spill. The piggies Keystoned down the bank, hot irons flapping in the stale breeze. There was a car. Benzo, I think, just sitting on the trail, watching. As soon as the first blue liner eyelined and made a beeline, the car spun out, just a trail of dust on the dusty trail. Them cops were peeshooting into an empty barrel like a rigged carnival game.

And I didn’t think, but maybe I should have. I was alone with a pickup full of artist and I just grabbed the kid’s vape machine. Sorry, pal, you’re vaping with Sinatra now. Not going to miss your doodad. I could get a quick buck for it, and not have to wrestle with putting whatever’s left of you out into the blogosphere. Some other schmuck probably would, but I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a dog’s age. I needed a tally in my column.

I was gone and trying to count sheep before the smoke cleared. It wasn’t even a restless sleep. It was a stare at the ceiling and find faces in the water stains kind of night. I realized I caught part of the license plate. I was probably burned with Colditz (oh, the irony), and I had the vape machine to hawk. If I weren’t shepherding tonight, then I may as well fish for some greenbacked snappers. But something kept pressing like a ham to follow up and find that car.

Queenie wasn’t in but the pawn shop was open. “Hey, Rookie.” Rook had been there for twenty years, but still. You catch a name and it’s jaggers. Sticks to you.

I clanked the vaping machine down on the glass, and the primo creme in the case gleaned like mud compared to this thing. “Whaddaya make of it, Rook?”

Rook eyeballed it through the squint then solemnly put the lens down on the counter. “It’s above your paygrade, Riley. Sixty kay easy. Here’s the rub—” Rook unscrewed the bottom of the vaping machine and slid it down. I knew enough to recognize a USB memory stick.

“What’s on this?” asked Rook, “You gonna get me in trouble with this thumb drive? Puff nine-twenty-one pen is half this size. You telling me you didn’t know there was a hide-a-key in the bottom?”

I did not understand vaping machines. “I don’t understand vaping machines.”

“Christmas. OK.” Rook rubbed their temples like Ozymandias trudging through the desert. “Let’s check it out. If it’s kiddie porn I’m loving you up.”

Rook tapped the dongle into the machine and tippity clicked on the mouse. “Audio files. Can’t open them on this piece of poo poo, but I recognize the extensions.”

“You think this is an unreleased album?”

“How should I know? Where’d you get this?”

“Asking questions, Rook?”

“I, no, I, it’s just weird, Riley. Not like you, either, to not know what sewer you’re wading knee deep into.”

“Look, I got half-a license plate I need ran. You gotta guy?”

Ahcourse, Rook had somebody. Just dialed 911, and got the emergency response. Ran the half-plate and weren’t much collusion to get from A to B. It was a record exec. Scraping a living in a corner office suite of the Rex Tower.

Ms Plixtik was in the queue waiting to onboard the skyscraper. Saddled in with the posse. You don’t nod, just act like you’re there. And you are. Drongoed through security like nothing else. Course, it helps to look like a Blues Brother run through the wringer wash.

I got to Rook seven checkmate and I didn’t even really know what I was doing there. Nameplate on the door: Jerry Marfield. Cat was lounging in an Aeron, headset in and feet kicked up as I kicked in the door. Reception just held their temples and and scrounged a cringe like this was the usual.

“Jerry Marfield,” I smoked and bellowed, “you kill a kid over this?” The thumb drive held high in my vainglorious hand.

He rattled out of his office stupor and feet planted. “Stepped into the wrong office, mate.”

I saw the waggle under the burnished mahogany topper, and it was clear. Crotch high shotgun swivel-mounted and ready to blow me.


There wasn’t much thinking, I just said “Put it in.” And for whatever reason, Jerry Marfield did. The encryption cracked like eggshell and I saw more than just the audio files Rook did. Didn’t quite know what I saw, but fifteen is more than ten, so yeah.

It was an album, the last, and best, and most radical that this vampy pop star would put out. There were also other stray files, I at least knew fifteen was more than ten.

“What are you going to do,” he cajoled. And true to form, I didn’t know. Sputter, sputter, hugh. “Security.” Marfield didn’t even have to hit a button like a supervillain. Just said it, and there they were.

Ehhhwhyyy. I petulated. Marfield smirked in that Patrick Bateman sort of way, “The album sucks. I didn’t kill him though.” Fireworks erupted in that lame sort of beach party way and I was out.

When I came to, I still felt high. Not the usual, but you know you get the sense when the ground is way below you. An unused office on the same floor as Marfield’s corner.

The door clicked open and Reception came in to kick me awake. I grabbed their wrist, and got an earful of siren. Wrenched up the sleeve and oh my stars. A vampire’s bite. So that’s how little Goffik got a busted tooth.

“You killed the cash cow?” I mused, but didn’t expect much in return. Got more than I bargained for.

“Honey?” Reception called out, and around the bend came the same kid I saw puddled. “I have my very own now. Everyone can.”

Nah, eff that. I put a fist right in the breadbasket on both of them and blitzed out. Guessed wrong, and wound up back in Marfield’s office.

Ninja rocks are just bits of ceramic busted off a spark plug, but somehow, a little bit thrown hard at a glass window will pull the whole thing down. I flicked and the magic did its job. Marfield spun, stunned, but the cronies were on the ball. Reception grabbed my arm in recovery, and little Goffik 2 ran a box cutter across my gut and unzipped me like a fly on prom night.

Out I went, watching the spaghetti dance into the sky.

Rook shook me awoke. The antiseptic white of a hospital. The fancy doodad of a vaping machine covered most of it. I asked if I was a clone. And he said, “If you are, they made one that poops in a bag.”

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

down with the clown

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 580 Submission

. Heart . .
1500 words

Some cliques were already cliques. The horse girls and the four-wheeler boys, the scouts. Riding lessons? Too expensive, the Jacksons wanted everyone to split stable fees. Small motor repair? Too dangerous, and I don’t trust that Bobby Lewis, you shouldn’t be around him. Foraging? Poison mushrooms.

Dotted around the U of folding tables: Mother, me, my aunt plus toddlers, Weird Bill, and Heather Tortoise with Grandmom Barb. It wasn’t until years later that I realized Tortoise was some corruption of their real name, but when I went to visit Mother in the home and ask, she couldn’t remember. I don’t think it was to make fun of her, she didn’t go to the public school, she was unknown to the meanies.

Heather’s Grandmom, Barb, sat beside her smiling at the table behind a blank signup as all the energy poured out of the room. Where Heather’s parents were, Mother couldn’t remember that either.

Aunt Laurie bobbed up to the table, kids in single file behind her. Three and four, and all dressed the same. Plain, grey Amish dress and starched white bonnets, but decked out in toddler-beauty-pageant makeup. They were Mennonite this year. Zippers were forbidden, but lipstick and rouge were okay. It was just one bin on the smorgasbord and there’d be a different entree by snowfall.

“This will be fun, huh?” She scratched their names on the paper. Unlike the rest of the signups printed off in the pastor’s office, it was a piece of 3-ring framed in a rainbow collage of construction paper. Across the top was a title on plastic ribbon, the wonky kerning of a manual label maker: ‘Clowning’.

I buried my nose in the crook of my elbow so all they could see were a steamy set of glasses.

“You can be a sad clown, if you want,” said Barb. “But I think we can come up with something better.”

In the years I knew her, I only heard Heather say two words, twice. The first time was on this day, as the last of the big boys clomped up the basement stairs, she managed a slow and belabored, “gently caress ‘em.” Heather had cerebral palsy. She also had a frequent and contagious inhale-laugh.

I snot laughed in return, more shocked than anything—swearing in front of adults and in a church. Before I knew it we were in the basement at the community theater, in front of floor length mirrors.

Barb passed out coloring book pages with blank ovals. “The first thing a clown does is design their face, their persona. What do you feel inside, but more importantly, what do you want to share? A clown’s makeup can be a window or a disguise.”

This was heady for a ten year old, but I spent enough sessions in the counselor’s office to understand.

“Tradition is to paint your face on an egg, which we’ll do, but first think of some designs.” She produced a photo album and flipped through it, old square ones with granny dates of blue pen written in the borders, spitting images of a spry smiling Heather being decorated with makeup by a woman with cat’s eye glasses in a sleeveless dress, the flesh under her arm hanging low in a wide grin of its own. On through to yellowing photos with the early eighties digital date stamps that bled into the surrounding shag carpet and wood paneling.

She ran through the basics as she flipped: “The Pierrot is your standard mime type; Whiteface is the leader, maybe Moe from the Three Stooges, if they wore makeup; Auguste is more friendly, Ronald McDonald; Joeys are goofy, they get hit in the face with a pie or fall down; hobo clowns; harlequins and jesters; … and so on.” The album recorded the many faces of Barb, iterations of paint marking a young girl growing into an adult, then mother, grandmother and mother again, and pictures that maybe had a few odd jobs as birthday party entertainer, mostly this book was a record of someone who clowned for the love of it.

“Of course, you can create a character—mix and match what you like and once you make a face, we’ll look at some costumes. Bill will be my assistant.” When I worked detasseling corn alongside him another hand said Bill fell out of a hay loft as a kid and it messed him up. We’d pile onto the tractor wagon at the end of the day and hitch rides home, but Bill would just full sprint until he vanished between the stalks. He was always the first one at the barn the next morning.

Exaggerated arcs for eyebrows, rosy cheeks and blue dot nose, the five o’clock shadow from the hobo, a sad mouth betraying the happy forehead, all greased with the dregs of old Ben Nye stowed in a musty tackle box. A look I’d revisit off and on for many years, sans makeup.

The mothballed racks held many secrets, satins from The Nutcracker in lively greens and purples. Top hats and scarves and fake sideburns from A Christmas Carol. The muttonchops were too big for me, and I cried a little about that, hidden away in the suit jackets.

Bill found pants large enough that Barb could hem a hula hoop into the waist, and he held them up with suspenders. His shirt was normal sized, he looked like a Victorian party game.

We practiced pratfalls in Barb’s backyard, dimestore magic tricks with plastic wands and fake flowers, but mostly we whiled the summer away dancing with gymnast ribbons. Usually it was just me and Heather. Bill materialized on occasion, often in dusty flannel straight from the field. Aunt Laurie’s Tater and Tot dropped out because Uncle Craig thought clowns were the devil’s work, but they could still be in the county fair parade.

It’s the 4-H Super Bowl, the fair. The Jackson girls in their little black hats on their diapered mounts, with their helpers crowded around, unable to not touch the horses; the boys on four wheelers behind them; we brought up the rear. We were wedged between drag race tractors and haywagon floats, school marching bands and state reps in convertibles with the corn queen. Heather led us, holding a hand scrawled sign that read ‘Spaghetti Dinner - $5.00 for the AP Women’s Shelter’ followed by the date and time.

Bill somersaulted and cartwheeled on the asphalt, hoop and all, and I’d be lying to say it was any good, but people paid attention. The toddlers ran from a basket Barb held to the sidewalk, hucking baggies of candy with business cards advertising the event printed on the pastor’s new ink jet. I threw as many cards as I could manage, fancying myself a Ricky Jay or more likely Gambit of the X-Men, but I got more in the crowd than the gutter.

Fair week came and went, and the dinner was tomorrow. Bill and I spent the day picking tomatoes for sauce at the farm he did, and I would, work at. The clowns slept in shifts that night while the sauce simmered in the fifty-gallon apple butter cauldron over the fire in Bill’s front yard and spent a groggy morning canning as much to sell as we could before moving to the church kitchen to boil store-bought noodles.

Barb unstitched Bill’s hula hoop so we could serve. The pews were filled, and downstairs, folding tables packed in a haphazard grid. We served and served, Bill and Heather and I ran plates while the little ones followed with baskets of garlic bread.

The boys crowded a table ready to eat and keen to show off their blue ribbon at the meeting post-dinner—they restored a 1920s gas lawnmower from a pile of rust. The Jacksons had a slew of ribbons, and in a few years the younger was a dressage alternate at the Olympics.

As we served them, my satin shining under the florescents, Bobby Lewis did that fake cough “faggots” and the Scut Farkuses laughed. For the second time, Heather spoke: “gently caress You.” In all our after schools playing Carmen Sandiego on her IIgs later that year, I don’t think I ever heard another word. She’d just one-finger type the answers in after the first clue and laugh while I thumbed through the book.

All through the dinner, there was a big display with horse photos and blue ribbons hanging from it, and the mower on a stack of pallets, scouts with a number of scouty-type awards. At the meeting they got rounds of applause from each other and hugs and hearty handshakes from parents.

We had no awards, just a bag of cash that we presented, still in our costumes and faces, to the director of the women’s shelter. Some 300 plates plus the jarred sauce proceeds. I think she cried more than I had in the past three months. Our ribbons were in Barb’s shed, waiting for us.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

im judge 2


The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Week 581 crits
Blind crits in order according to Archive scrambler so find your story by title, I didn’t go through and fill out authors. If there was supposed to be cohesion and overarching plot, then by design and prompt, the reading order scrapped that.

There were a lot of Celtic imaginings this week, so things that were out of that realm were refreshing. Some I liked, some I did not, but kudos for being different.

When I crit I’m reading as a first reader that wants you to write a story for me. So if I’m off base, then hey man, that’s like your opinion. But I do like hearing what people meant my dingus head interpreted it. I always try to dig for references, and in a week where names were stolen frequently, I looked a lot at them I don’t know that there was that much play in people’s names, but I might have missed something significant. I never take my own advice, so you probably shouldn’t either.

Top marks were pretty simple to run through, even coming sideways at a story Rohan took it without much discussion. There wasn’t really a consensus on lower marks, I kind of hated a few that others liked, and that’s the way it goes.

Payment Rendered

"Greg, how did your room get so clean?" Greg's mom looks around the room in wonder. Even under the bed is spotless.

"The fairies helped me, Mom!"

She looks in his backpack. "Is your homework done too?"

Greg's math homework is written in a fine copperplate hand, all of his word problems finished.

"The fairies helped me, Mom!"

Slightly bewildered, she looks at her son standing there, beaming. "Well, if your chores are done, then I guess you can play Switch."

After a few minutes, Greg's mom asks, "Have you seen your sister?"

"The fairies don't work for free, Mom!"


Classic kid behavior, rule of three on the repetition of Mom. It’s crisp and pretty clean. Cute. Maybe the patter doesn’t quite fit with Greg’s mom line and a ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum punch, but it’s real close. It’s not original, but it’s a good telling of the joke.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

“Soft touch didn’t work,” Tina Tonic paused to drain her thimble of coffee. “So get in there and give him the worst possible interpretation of what he done.”

Hassan folded his muscular arms in displeasure.

“I know you don’t like leaning into the stereotype but it’ll work.” Tina insisted.

Hassan Al-ahmar knew they were a good team, they’d the best clearance rate in the precinct, yet he still found cause to regret his partnership with Tina.

“FINE…” he sighed.

“Great!” Tina grinned. “Now take off your shirt and get in the lamp. Need a dramatic entrance, really Djinn it up.”


Bad Cop, Bad Cop. Tiny female cop is ineffective, big scary man gets confessions. You even put a button on it being a stereotype, and that’s all this is, like out of Blue Bloods or something—the intimidator is reluctant, intended to generate reader sympathy, but doesn’t question that maybe the tactic is fash or innocent people are confessing out of fear.
There’s not a good subversion of the boilerplate scene, really it’s just a name swap from a million similar cop show scenes. Not sure what the intended message here is.

Untitled 1

Was it a bird I saw that night, dancing in the dahlias beneath the starlight? But it sparkled, and it pulsed with a strange kind of hue, could an entourage of fireflies have lent their lucent bloom? Hummingbirds do fly at night, a rare bird that can do, and yes they also float that way, and move as quickly too. But they don’t have faces, don’t have hands, don’t have voices, don’t give commands, don’t pull me out into the dark with a shovel in a haze, don’t make me dig till past midnight and lay down in my grave.

Given enough motivation, any bird will fly at night, and fly their faces off. But this is darkly romantic. Interesting that a strange presence makes the narrator dig a hole, and they assume it is their grave. Could be miscommunication with an ethereal dowser.
Yeah, it’s got style and a dreaming quality in, uh, spades.


Death Awaits

She ran, her breathing ragged. Bare feet slap the wet earth. As she looks over her shoulder, she slips on fallen leaves and scrambles back to her feet, hopelessly pushing forward. Cloth is wrapped tightly around her, securing her infant child close to her chest. The little one whimpers and she tries to shush the babe before glancing back again. The figure looms behind her, casually trudging through the trees. Its long, scraggly hair hides its body. The mother pushes onward, trying desperately to get away. She hears a loud, rattling breath and goes pale. Too late. The banshee screams.


‘She runs’ to fit the tense of the rest, but whatevs. Hopeless comes a little too early in the piece—and even at the end, the mother is still trying to escape. Doesn’t seem hopeless to me.
Might be nice to have a more mirrored beginning and ending with the breathing of monster and victims. Still, it conjures a fairly vivid image of the action simply.


She caught me on the shore. Hips, breasts, silky hair shamelessly swaying. A true woman, nothing like the mousey girl who'd cried on our wedding night. She straddled me; I swelled to her. My hands on her bare back; her fingers slipped into my hair.

Our faces were a breath away when a rock hit her cheek. My wife pelted towards us, shrieking in alarm, another stone in her fist. Unbothered by the blood, the woman gazed at me with eyes like the deepest ocean. She whispered, "Her or me?"

We fled to the water. I drowned between her legs.


Not in love with the ‘true woman’ protag, and the ending could be interpreted in an eros way, rather than a deadly comeuppance. I first imagined From Here to Eternity, rather than an actual drowning.
“A breath away” is a nice phrase given the piece. ‘Pelted towards us’ sounds strange though. I suppose it’s grammatically accurate, but I’ve never heard it used like that.

I think the POV of the mouse-wife would have been more interesting.


The fairies have insinuating fingers and I can feel them on my scalp. The hair-fine cracks on my skull where the fragments of my soft-formed baby's cranium met, their fingertips are in there now: gentle, insistent.

"Where is it?" they ask. "Where did you put it?"

I never meant to steal their gold and spend it on residential property, it was a momentary impulse.

There are no courts that would convict me. I lack mens rea, a guilty mind!

Yet, anxious, I recall seeing a tree that grew right through a wall. Those first green shoots, so pale and soft.


Unsettling, and unsure if this is literal digging in a brain or psychic probing, but it works either way. The easy way out is to just tell them where the money is, either with a bank or someone else. Also, it makes me think of confusing the fairies by saying it’s in escrow and sending them on a wild goose (crow) chase. Could be an amusing out.

Not really accurate on mens rea, baby head is aware of the fact they stole the gold, that’s enough. Feeling unrepentant doesn’t matter, even if obtaining housing was the goal. If there was maybe a breakdown in cognizance as the fairies dug deeper that would be neat.

The ending I imagine is the fairie brain probes breaking into the mind palace, but I’m unsure why the shoots are pale and soft. If it ended with the single word “Unrelenting.” then maybe it would tie it together better, but an overarching theme of nature reclaiming structures (as the brain digging happens) could have paid off


I wake before an empty throne, in the moment when twilight fades. The poor sun is shamed, chased away into ruin.

“Make it bow!” rings the reedy chorus, their melody thick with sap and plucked with wormwood.

The courtiers watch me with faces sharp and grinning, and I find not a friend among them.

The unseen queen laughs cold like winter’s bite, and bends my spine to a supplicant’s gnarl. Blades of grass stretch up to cut my face.

I must caper for their evening’s amusement. My fine green coat has torn away, and my hair is tangled with brambles.


P. cool. I don’t know that a reedy chorus would also be thick with sap, that makes me think of sludgy rumbles instead and plucking of strings, so maybe you were going for a full orchestra in one sentence, but maybe being clear with one tone or splitting it up for a more music themed piece would be more potent. Like the queen laughs like winter, and it’s not related to the other denizens’ voices. I like running an imagery theme into the ground, so I would have packed this with as much musical stuff as I could (and have done on several recent occasions)

Wormwood has a lot of connotations and introduces some ambiguity on whether this is a fever dream or real, and that’s cool. The Unseelie Court acts on unpredictable whim so in that sense, it fits into the folklore.


I knew I was different. They all knew it too. I had the hair, the eyes, the skin, but those close to me could tell.

The other children mocked my clumsiness, the dullness in my eyes. My sister Hannah once told me I smelled like wet leaves.

One morning I awoke to find my skin rupturing, sloughing away painlessly. I brushed it from my limbs like damp cobwebs, finding jet-black bone and mottled bramble beneath.

I fed, then slept, dreaming of retribution, my parents and the corpse I lay before them, its hair, its eyes, its skin.


If everyone knows, then you don’t need to differentiate between those close to you and the maddening crowd. Kind of a light jab from Hannah when a sister might be much more cruel. I don’t think Hannah is the dead body, it’s too vague, but it probably should have been.

The cuckoo hatching in a nest of a different variety is a good theme for a monster story, though.

The Queen of Air and Shadow

When I was a lass I met a Queen on the bog, a lady I could not see. She danced in the light of the no-shine moon, swept up by the wind that moaned off the peat. I curtsied as my Ma had taught me, standing on midnight moss. Out of a zephyr the darkness was woven, crafted of stars royal hands stitched away. It whispered to me of wisp and of gloaming. Come to the court, where we dine on fog and flower. Come see the place where the night does not die.


Feels like an epigraph to a novel. Dreamy and poetic, and light of the no-shine moon is a nice phrase. ‘Crafted of stars royal hands stitched away’ sounds a little awkward with away at the end. The pattern sort of goes “light, wind, light, wind, light, wind” then there’s eating (could stretch it to ‘light’ via fog) so to clean up some phrasing and enunciate the pattern and then either end with a windy metaphor or combine them for the last sentence would make it really cool.


Hag though some call me, I once held youth like you; it thrummed in my breast like a starling. My careless steps carried me among birch and rowan, farther than any would dare. I heeded neither old wives’ wisdom nor lateness of hour.

One midnight I met a Shaded Queen, dancing above moonlit moss. Woe betide a stupid lass who knows not the proper cant! Thorned fingers took me as a plaything, whisking me away through air and darkness.

Learn from my withered face, children. Mind your manners. The cost of your rudeness may be the bloom of your years.


The first two paragraphs feel out of order, otherwise kind of a straightforward cautionary tale about being alone in the dark wood. Pretty simple and not a lot to dig into, but could definitely see this in a book of auld faerie tales.

Also, give us the proper cant. Don’t tease.

The Changeling’s Return

The Summer Queen descends into the maze of steel and poison, hand in hand with Liam, brave and trembling. They face riddles and trials, some in places the Queen cannot abide, but at last they have an audience with a great sage: a stern, elder mortal in a white coat. They listen carefully to his pronouncements: "suspected astrocytoma," then "cancer" when the Queen's mask of comprehension fails, then "growing sickness."

The Summer Queen does not understand sickness, but she squeezes Liam's hand. "I will do anything," she says.

Even give her bright, beautiful, stolen boy back to this hateful world.


Could be read as completely mundane, even the last line as someone dying and releasing their romantic partner. In that frame of mind, it’s pretty good.

But if you read it as a supernatural tale, then the last line is shoehorned in. Did the queen trade immortality for the love of a mortal? Is it simply the first day of fall and the Summer Queen experiences this every year? It’s also a little icky to call Liam a boy, and the connotations are not great. Navigating the cancer diagnosis is something a child wouldn’t understand either, so I’m left with the impression that Liam has been groomed and is now grown. My sympathy lies with him, not the Summer Queen.

Dear Imprudence

“Hey homo! What’cha doin’, playin’ with yerself?” demanded Oscar.

“Talking with a fairy,” said Morgan.

“Talkin’ to yerself? Fuckin fairies. Where?”

“Over there,” said Morgan, pointing to a nearby shock of dandelions..

“I don’t see nothin’.”

“That’s because you have to believe in fairies in order to see them.”

Oscar walked to the dandelions. “Right here? Yer friend right ‘bout here?”

“Yes,” said Morgan.

Oscar stomped the dandelions flat with a hi-top.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” said Morgan.

“What’re you gonna do about it?” said Oscar.

“I’m not going to do anything about it,” said Morgan.

“Ribbit,” said Oscar.


Um. OK. I think it’s coded, and maybe it’s like a pepe frog stomping the environment and human rights with an ineffectual left not doing anything to stop it? If that’s the case, it took a lot of thought to see that your meaning is antithetical to what you wrote. Tough sell with such a limited wordcount.

True Gold

After the deal is done, she sits and watches the fairy gold for a day and an hour. The spools of electronics-grade wire will trade well to the bunker's engineers, but --

But trade is not what she sold it all for.

At last, at midnight, the glamour fades. Where gold wire was is a pile of leaf litter, precious refuse from some fairy forest, and she sorts through it like a joyful child. Seeds of a dozen extinct species. Leaves and brush of two dozen more, ready to be sequenced, resurrected.

She has sold her name to feed the future.


Sort of like cold iron, gold is important to the fairy tales, but isn’t as good as copper for bulk electronics. Flipping it to be bullion to trade with wastelanders or something might make it less “wait-a-minute”, or there’s a need for some specific medical equipment wiring, but we find out it’s not really that important anyway.
And I’m thinking about the tricksy nature of faeries, and could have been neat to have the gold fade into a bunch of arsenic laced seeds while the fairies cackle at the poisoned deal, (but we all know them as simple appleseeds)

Untrue Name

“Don’t be the next Rumpelstiltskin.”

I sip on my latte, the taste of curdling milk on my tongue tells me Grunirhinge didn’t appreciate the reference. I press on.

“Old names don’t work anymore. Spitalcrick, Pisselpop? Too unique, one Google search from disaster. But this?”

I turn my screen to the Fae and hit him with the closer.

“Don’t be a fish in sea, hide in the forest as one of the trees.”

The twee bullshit always gets the traditionalists. Grunirhinge nods.

“This wisdom is clear to me,” he says. “Let my son be named-”

Grunirhinge squints at the screen.



Funny idea, I’m hoping there’s a second story down the line where someone guesses the name ‘whatsmyip.’ It certainly looks like an impish name but for a standalone punchline I don’t know if it’s universal. Maybe “https://whatsmyip or something that even if you didn’t know what an IP was or seen the banner ads, then you’d still get the gist. Or ‘’ or whatever.

Maybe it’s just me and TD crits, but I feel like people call out twee bullshit a lot. Probably could have a more original phrasing. It seems like the computer nerd isn’t mystical as Grun is referenced as the Fae, so I have questions about the background story. It’s a loose thread in an otherwise pretty solid setup.

Also struck by their worry over googling now, and immediately thought that the imps’ plan was to create chatGPT to ruin the miller’s daughter’s chance of guessing the right name.

Listen Now, Dear Hearts, With Ears Like Elephants

‘Ware ye well, children, to the circles of stone
Of fungus and chitin and scabberous bone
Out in the dark forest
A chittering chorus
Of tenebrous, glamorous tone

‘Ware ye well wee-uns, when out you go walking
Look well at the faces with whom you are talking
For the Gentry disguise
‘Neath flattering eyes
Their nature when they go a-stalking

‘Ware ye well, cautions, when far out you roam
‘Neath dapple tree shadows, o’er rich, black loam
Remember well, you
The stories I tell you
Of the children that never came home.


Nice little cautionary tale poem, and interesting class distinctions. The first stanza flows really well, and I can sing-song it all day. The other two aren’t so clean.

Untitled 4

He sees lights at night, and he goes in the yard and stands there, sometimes for hours, tilting his head like he’s listening or watching for something. But there’s nothing there, just the chirping frogs and the stars. What can I do, doctor?
Has he harmed himself or anyone else?
No, nothing like that. But he dug a hole, and he won’t let me fill it, and he spends hours drawing meaningless spirals and circles, and he won’t talk to me. Could it be a tumor? I don’t know what to do...
I’d like to refer you to a specialist…


But doctor … I am Pagliacci.

I think it would be more eerie if the narrator starts to see the patterns at the end. There’s not a lot of immediacy in someone telling a story in a story, so I read it at a distance, just like the doctor. But I get the sense this is another derp joint, so you’ve at least developed a consistent and singular voice (beyond all the effing untitled entries).


Thank you for calling Cleaning Fairies where a little help is a big help my name is Patricia in order for me to assist you may I please have the account number.

Thank you one moment.

Okay and who am I speaking with.

Please slow down sir


I’m have trouble hearing you with the background


Sir the contract clearly references customer responsibility to provide fresh cr

Well perhaps the date on the carton was wrong sir

Sir please do not use offensive language


I’m hanging up sir.

Thank you for calling Cleaning Fairies where a little help


It’s clear the intent is the nightmare of customer service, but I’m unsure on what exactly the problem is. One sided conversations can be neat if you can surmise what the other side of the phone is saying without much confusion. Maybe if it was upfront that this is Fairy Cleaning Billing department, and I suppose the customer was paying in saucers of cream but it was curdled?
Likewise, instead of hanging up, transferring to a supervisor or making the call a loop from customer service to billing back to customer service would be punchier since you know the customer is going to call right back even angrier after getting hung up on.

There’s no payoff to the background noise, either. Like a followup, “Yes sir, you’re speaking quite loudly, but please refrain from offensive language.”

I get it, but it’s a little rough around the edges.

Untitled 3

Are you coming to dinner?
In a minute.
You’ve been sitting there for hours.
Just a minute.
She leaves the room, he sits at the window, fingers tap tap tapping. His eyes dart left, his eyes dart right. Flick, flick, a metronome, flick. The sun sets, the window darkens. He waits for the lights to return.
Please talk to me.
Just a minute.
It’s been hours, you won’t talk to me.
In a minute.
Lights streak past the window, he stands, walks out the door into the dark. Frogs chirp, wind hisses, and he stands immobile staring into the night.

It’s like a mundane Lovecraft. I think the dinner partner would be a little more concerned if someone started being that strangely all of a sudden. It’s more disconcerting if it’s usual behavior. Like one time I slept on the living room couch for 48 hours straight and my roommates flitted around like it was nothing, but when I sat in the dark and they came in they were like “this is hosed up.”


You mustn’t watch for the witch in the woods. She slips between the trees, leaves crinkling underfoot. Her feet and fingers are long, knuckles knotted like branches. A bag of marbles hangs ‘round her neck. She fondles it, humming, stumbling through the dark.

Simply look away and she’ll do you no harm. She needs to be invisible. Don’t we all, sometimes? Do her this kindness and avert your gaze. She may even leave a marble, a token of her grace.

But should she look you in the eye, she’ll pluck them from your skull, and add them to her bag.


Ohh, I think this is the first one to give me a little chill. I was trying to figure out the marbles and if it’s some mythology thing and then it drops. And the sight metaphor is carried through. Yum


"So wait, you're telling me I'm part... fey?" Ellen stops walking and stares pointedly at the person standing next to her. They're of indeterminate gender and are staggeringly beautiful.

"That's right. Your father's a fairy."

"But don't fairies have like... an allergy to metal?"

"Cold Iron yes, but you're only part fey, so it manifests itself differently with you."

"And that's why-"

"Why your smartphones never work right, yes."

Ellen reaches into her pocket and takes out her phone. The screen is spiderwebbed with cracks and as they both stare at it, the home screen blinks and it reboots itself.


The blocking is a little awkward on ‘Ellen stops walking and stares pointedly at the person standing next to her.’ Like it could be read as Ellen seeing someone on the street that was gorgeous and freezing in her tracks, rather than two walking down the street together.

I don’t know if anyone finding out their father is fey would immediately followup q about metal allergies, unless Ellen’s mom told her a very specific story about her conception. It’s a bit abrupt.

Cold iron is a specific choice, and you could make a groanworthy joke about it—meteoric iron is why Ellen’s Samsung Galaxy keeps exploding. But maybe silver would have been a better choice for an allergy, since that’s frequently a component in circuitboard solder.

Could have been better with an ending about Ellen instead of the phone, maybe, like “Ellen felt she needed a reboot, too.”


There’s a place downtown where a fairy ring grows. People sit inside it. They don’t wear clothes. Others laugh, disapprove; they call the police. When authorities arrive, it’s gone without a trace.

The ones who sit have gone away too. Sometimes they leave messages. CAN YOU SEE WHAT WE DO? Spray-painted, carved, written in chalk, next to carefully folded clothes. It makes people talk.

“Why do you do this?” I asked one day.

“You can’t bring it with you,” was all he would say.

There’s a new ring today. No one inside. I unbutton my shirt. What can this provide?

What can this provide is an odd capstone—where does it go might be more clear. If the people are finding meaning in the circle then why are the folded clothes so important. Like ascending to a higher plane means leaving the past behind, so I would expect rumpled piles dropped without care. The clothes don’t matter anymore.

It sort of gives it away, calling it a fairy ring immediately. And to place it downtown, I imagine a ring of mushrooms growing right through the pavement in a dimly lit alley. That’s interesting but it doesn’t seem so to the narrator. That first paragraph is too matter of fact.


The shaking stopped and the office plunged into power-cut darkness. Jane and Sara were the only early-birds there. No nervous laughter, just a synchronised grabbing of phones to call daycare, husbands.

No signal. Outside, a scream.

Sara was first out from under her desk. The light turned burnt-orange as the sun rose through clouds of dust. She blanched at the huge cracks in the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Long-fingered hands squeaked against the glass. Outside, high-pitched laughter.

Jane, ever practical, flipped open the civil defence bin. Water, glowsticks. A sledgehammer. Jane raised it and her eyebrows. Sara nodded, once.

They were coming.


There’s nothing innately supernatural about the text, could pretty easily slot in raiders/looters after an earthquake, or even interpret it with the sun through the dust as a bomb and the fingers as irradiated victims. It’s good that way, though. Like The Mist, or any number of zombie things, or even Doctor Who (Sarah Jane), being trapped while strange and unknowable things are happening outside is tense and interesting. But Sara and Jane seem all too ready for whatever’s going on, and the impulse is to smash first rather than escape. They both have families, and there’s no earlier indication that there’s no way out. If the glass was shattered and the fingers were grasping the window sill to pull themselves inside, maybe.


Bespoke Bodies

When I was seven, I didn’t know it would be impossible. So when my fairy godmother promised to buy me one thing from the goblin market when I turned sixteen, I asked for a skateboard. She chuckled, suggesting a gown to attract the handsome.

When I turned sixteen, I needed the impossible. I detached from my godmother and sprinted from stall to stall, hunting for the mushroom or injection or trousers that would change my body to fit my soul.

The gnome at “Bespoke Bodies” handed me the impossible wrapped in brown paper, my name written in green. I wept.


This is like a classic story in TD by now—trans supportive tales told succinctly. It’s one that should be told over and over again, so I’m mixed on how to judge it. It’s p. good with the play of impossible several times, and rebellion against the authority figure which is interesting since it’s a fairy godmother. Is it as easy as finding the right merchant in the Underdark? If only.

Untitled 5

They live behind my eyes, even in this clean white room they live on in the dark of each blink, and when the lights click off there they are, drawing spirals in the air, glowing circles, loops and whorls, and they whisper to me, and their bright glow streaks down to touch my face and the words appear, a breath in my ear, don’t take it, spit it out, don’t swallow, hide it away, don’t take it, and I nod and nod and I take the pill from beneath my tongue and push it under the mattress with the others.

If you don’t eat your seroquel you can’t have any pudding. Yeah, uh, I think places where you’re in a sterile white room would have more discerning pill wardens and mattress flippers, or maybe it’s the opposite where the dingier the place, the more likely the pharmacy is to put a rubber gloved finger under your tongue to check.

It’s a good setup, but It feels like I’ve heard/seen it before.

A Castle of Bark and Bone

The king of mist and moss rules none. His halls are empty, save the chittering shadows that haunt him.

Any day now, they will come. All he requires is one hapless fool to stumble into this bog and relinquish their name.

One name is all he needs to reclaim power.

When the mortal arrives, she beats down his doors, a strange iron device in hand. Her garb is bright and offensive, and fury blazes in her eyes.

The king nearly forgets his words.

“L-long have I-”

“I’m Janet,” the woman shouts. “Now take me away; I loving hate it here.”

Sounds more like a Karen to me. I think it would be better served to start with the mortal arriving and have more interaction with Janet. That’s the good bit. Sort of a weird interaction anyway, Who gets lost in a bog on foot, enters a castle and upon seeing a king on a throne announces “I’m Janet, now take me away.” It’s too contrived and very odd phrasing.

GroWing Up

My wings, I want them, please give them to me
Cried the fledgling fairy, Naeroji

Not yet, my babe, but someday soon
And her father hid them, behind the moon

And now, father, perhaps you’ll find
I’ve grown so, I’m wise and I’m kind

Still no, my child, with wings you might fall
And if something should happen, I couldn’t stand it at all

Father, it’s time, you must know it’s true
If you can’t give them to me, I’ll take them from you

I won’t make you steal, but I cannot give in
Snatch them from me, try and win.


Rhyming scheme isn’t anything special, and I’d like to see the hubris of the baby bird claiming they’re wise and kind and either fail or be proven.
It’s like a bunch of braggadocio. I think you should continue this into the size of an epic poem and see where it goes. Simply, not enough happens in these hundo words, but I do get a sense of the daddy bird and the child trying to live up to an ideal, so it’s pretty good.

Rêverie en Vert

I blinked, my eyes suddenly watery from the greenery that consumed my every sense.

"What is this place?" I breathed.

"It is your home, my mortal," she said, rising from the pond, her ivory arms outstretched, and my heart shattered at her beauty. "A place for forgetting time and troubles."

The moss trembled, and the vines shivered and sang. I went with her into the wood, and knew her forever, and loved her forever, until I learned of her deceit and sought to leave her side.

I blinked, my eyes suddenly watery from the greenery that consumed my every sense.


Suddenly watery from the greenery sounds hard to say. My mortal is also a weird thing. I never really understood that, immortals being fascinated with the lifespan of finite beings. Like I can totally understand how it would feel to be immortal, and there’s lots of literature pondering the subject, so unless you were an eternal concept, it should click on some level. One of the things that I, as a fresh immortal, would not want is to forget and zone out through eternity. What is the appeal there? It’s like waking up every day. You don’t truly know how long you’ve lived. And no one does. Are you really 36 or forty, or one hundred and ten?
Just call them a pet, it’s basically the same thing in context.

There is a betrayal, but there’s no why or how. What is the shift from love to hate?
What did they want in the first place? That’s definitely not clear. There’s no established love for this mortal, and no reason why they’d be there, so the deceit falls flat. Why is this immortal doing what they’re doing? It’s not Lovecraftian unknowable enough to be nonsense.

Retro Sprite

“Is this one for numbers too?”
The tiny, luminous being alighted on Robert's computer.
“I guess? It sends information back and forth with…”
“What do you need with more numbers that you have on your fingers and toes? Useless! I'm putting it all back!”
“No, wait!”
Robert tried to brush the sprite away, but it flitted around the room like a hummingbird, landing on his clock, his phone, his PlayStation, and even his wallet, then darted out through the cracked window.
Horrified, Robert watched as the plastic in his possessions devolved into a mass of squirming plankton and algae.


If you’re going for sprites, you probably could have played it up more. I don’t think necessarily of Playstation as sprite based, NES or Super or Sega would be more fitting. Sorry, I don’t know why the plastic is devolving. It’s a concern in physical media that DVDs and CDs will decay, and I’ve encountered that in some cheap media that I’ve burned so the concept is not foreign. lovely flaky CD-Rs that don’t play anymore are a nightmare. So maybe I do get it, but I don’t think that’s the supposed focus, so I can surmise a lot, but not be sure.

Untitled 6

September 24, Saint Damian’s Psychiatric Hospital, a patient, Leland Lothrop, 47, vanished during the night. No one saw him leave. His window was open, but it’s unlikely he climbed down from the second story. A search is in progress. The only notable item left in his room was a journal filled with intricate drawings of spirals, circles, and other shapes. In the final pages the shapes coalesced into insect wings, and eyes, and finally a face. We showed the face to the family, in case it was someone he might visit, but by then that page had been torn out.


Buh? Really Lovecraft-y, but the last sentence doesn’t make sense. Was the page torn out, but still loose leaf in the journal? The doctor should have tried to show the page, but it was gone. It’s a journal entry about a journal entry. That’s kind of cool, but detached and distant. It’s the vibe, but with such few words, and no indication of who the face belongs to, it falls a bit flat.
Lothrop is almost portal or porthole backwards.St. Damien is the saint of lepers, so maybe a little more body horror if you’re choosing that name. Otherwise, it just seems like you’re relying on The Omen for creep factor.

Flight Control

After weeks of pouring over operating manuals and technical specs, the day had finally come.

“Don’t be so nervous, kid,” said his father.

He didn’t reply. The hardest thing about joining the family business was enduring his father’s advice. True, the old man had clocked over 10,000 flight hours but the new Boeing 880 was significantly more complex than anything he’d dealt with in his day. He tried to ignore his father. He failed.

“If all else fails,” his father continued. “Just stick something in the propeller.”

Again, he bit his tongue. This time his needle sharp teeth drew blood.


I thought this was like goblin balloon brigade taken up a notch and was neutral, even trying to figure out how or why a family business would have an 880. but then judge chat explained that it was a gremlin in the plane and lol, I see it now. I would have enjoyed it more, maybe if they were having this convo at 30 thousand feet on the wing, revealed at the end as the peer inside the window.



All she wanted was a fairy to play with, but they said that fairies loved green spaces and none would come to the nearly barren, windswept mesa she lived on. Weren't invasive tumbleweeds as alive as any blooming sunflower, though? Weren't agave and ocotillo as green as clover? She believed in and hoped for them to arrive even as she grew too old to believe in such things. Until the day she came home to find a tiny woman in clothes as pink as the flowers on a cholla sitting on her doorstep.

"Meet your new fairy godmother!" they sang.


I like rooting it in the southwest, that gives it a different feel to the Celtic dampness that most of the entries have. But the ending is generic. Should have thrown some indigenous mythology at us or just cut the last line entirely and added some more in the middle. That’s all pretty good.

shifting sands

She comes to you, first, in a dream. Forgotten upon waking; remembered only in raindrops, birdsong, lees in a wine glass.

How do you, flesh and bone, warrant her attention? How do you, soon ash and dust, hold the memory of her, while shifting sands swallow footprints?

How do you forget her?

Here is what you have forgotten: the scent of jasmine through parted curtains, the warmth of gossamer wings and nacreous silk, the things she offers for the gift of your name. Distant cloud; sharpened teeth.

You wake with syllables on your tongue, grit that will form no pearl.


More stealing names mythos, but drat, it flows well, and it’s just on the right side of purple. I like it.

Glamorous Futures

Devin grinned. He had achieved the object of his desires. The seller had some strange stipulations about the exchange, but it was a steal by any measure. He looked at the image of the ape on his screen, its bored expression bracketed by gossamer wings. He had one, he was one of the elite. He began planning what he’d wear to his first yacht party.

Talion, Earl of Midsummer, leaned back from his monitor and steepled his fingers. To grin would be unbecoming of his station. Still, he was satisfied. Faerie gold, he reflected, had to move with the times.


I mean, you nail the image of NFT dipshits, except that there’s probably some Nazi memorabilia interspersed between the funkos. If it’s a plot by mischievous imps, then it should probably be more clear about why. You know there’s some perfectly mundane trader who calls himself Tallon, Earl of Midsummer. And a quick search on opensea says 259 accounts start with “Earl of …” lol

Sean Gloriosis

Sean and Randy stumbled around the back 40 of the junkyard. It was only 10am, but Sean was more than a little buzzed.

"I'm telling ya, it was right around heah!" Sean is gesturing wildly while Randy hangs back. "Look for a fuckin C10 panel van."

"gently caress me, Sean. there ain't no such things as fairies or a portal to another world. You're just trying to get me to forget you pinching my cigs."

Sean finds the van, and with a triumphant yell, wrenches the back doors open.

Randy peers in and sees a verdant green forest inside the van.


I feel like this rides or dies on the Boston accent. The van could have been more explicit, we all had a neighbor in the eighties with that sort of thing. Pinching my cigs line sounds kind of artificial, but maybe people say that, I’ve only been to NE a couple times and saw Good Will Hunting a while ago. If it were more ambiguous about the verdant green forest being the shag carpet on the walls, or maybe a hint about forbidden Playboys it’d be punchier.

It’s Just Seasonal

OK, circle up. It’s our busy season so we can’t have a long meeting about this. OK. That’s everyone. I know the State of Florida, the scientific community, and probably many people in this room do not recognize the existence of faerie creatures – or pixies or leprechauns or ghosts. I can’t have an argument right now. We have them – something – in the office. I’ve seen them. They’re tiny people, but, I think, as entities, they’re much larger. One lit my trashcan on fire. I can’t take you off your audits, but I need you to keep an eye out. Please.


Of course, Florida is the vanguard of regression—it feels a little disingenuous to put this on them too. I think it’s one place that would be all in on office fairies. I also think a manager calling an all hands to scout for fairies would have a plan that could have turned into an amusing office nightmare. Doing something or laying out a fae-fighting plan would have been better than just using all the words to have the manager speculate that something is in the building.


Fortune Favored

Susan Townsend-Kilbride frowned.

“What do you want bones for?”

The Winter Prince’s displeasure did what his courtier’s swords could not and cut through her ironvine protections.

“When you buy bread, does the baker account for your coin?”

“Money is normal,” Susan countered. “Bones seems cruel.”

The Prince’s smile was as cold and empty as his kingdom.

“I say coin is crueller still.”

She searched the Fae’s empty eyes. She found herself staring back.

“Fine,” she sighed. “When you’re done with him, keep the bones.”

Arguing was pointless. She didn’t care about her father’s body, all that mattered was her inheritance.


I suppose Towns End, Kill Bride would be obsessed with the material, though it’s such a specific name choice that there’s got to be more to it. Is there? Doesn’t seem like it. Just a funny double-barrel name to conjure a big inheritance, I suppose.

But really, Susan is not concerned at all with the supernatural Winter King, which suggests that this is normal. If the fae are body thieves and do things with bones or bodies, they probably have more clever deals, or don’t make deals at all. There isn’t really a deal at all, and it seems like Susan could get the body if she wanted. She just relents like dealing with a petulant teen.

Or if she’s selling the body through some devilish contract, it’s really obtuse. And someone who doesn’t care about the body is asking a lot of questions that don’t matter to her, thus don’t matter to us.

The prince is right, though, so not sure why their eyes are empty. I once sent an uncle into apoplexy by saying that money isn’t real and the US is a fiat country based on a fiat currency, so a few simple words can conjure interesting things in a reader. Money is cruel.


FAIRY CONTROL OFFICER: "Announce go/no go for cobbling. Repeat. Announce go/no go for cobbling."

TRANSIT: "We are go."





FORWARD ADVANCE: "No Go! We are No Go! Cold Iron detected in workshop. Repeat. No Go!"

FCO: "No Go received and confirmed. Abort Cobbling. Abort Cobbling. Abort Cobbling."


TOOLS: "What? Why is there Cold Iron in the workshop?"

FA: "Looks like the cobbler called a plumber and he left some iron behind."

FCA: "This is a recorded line. Quit the chatter. We'll try it again tomorrow."


I mean it’s cute, but doing a space launch parallel with cobbler elves and not a Levy-Shoemaker gag? C’mon.


Llama Drama

Greg was a professional, but this was the worst case of carpet llamas he’d ever seen. Interdimensional bastards. Eat pile, poo poo portals. Trouble was, Greg’s brother had fallen in.

No. Climbed. David was trying to crack open space-time with his fingers.

Greg put a hand on a trembling shoulder. Their first touch in a long time.

“I’m going. Please, Greg, come--”

Greg’s mind was carefully barricaded against the truth. He climbed from the hole in David’s living room floor. The house was gone. Gigantic camelids occluded the sun and spat stars.

Greg sighed, and fetched his tools from his van.


Lol, ‘you haven’t touched me in so long. please, climb in my hole and come, brother’

It’s cool, but I feel like the ‘all in a days work, lemme get my toolbox and deal with a pending apocalypse’ is pretty stock, even if it is llamas pooping shag that breaks spacetime.

Vale’s Last Stand

Lieutenant Vale landed split-squat and raygunned the fresh-risen daisies into a corona of purple ash. Jet-booted two metres up as scythes sliced for her legs, their fey wielders evil of claw and intent.

A fresh circle, the scent of violets. In its abyssal centre Vale saw her lost Captain’s face. She sobbed; fumbled her landing. With one, two backflips she dodged the advancing fey. But not her broken heart.

A scythe at her back. Again, Vale jetted straight up. The thrice-cursed land spread out beneath her. Row upon row of fairy circles, and in them all her Captain’s eyes, calling.


Smells like violets cuz the ash is purple? Probably could have played with that more, it’s not real clear what the fairy circles have to do with the aliens or jet pack space marine. I guess it’s how the baddies teleport in or grow, but you’d think Vale would want to destroy them. Maybe she can’t because she keeps seeing the captain.

I mean, still doing backflips whilst sobbing in despair is something. The fumble doesn’t really mean anything; Vale’s immediately backflipping without a problem.Have Vale lament the captain’s loss while being trapped in the circle. I dunno. There’s no real tension. You know there’s a loss, but that happened outside the story, and fine, but Vale is just an asskicker who cries.

It’s a Deal

Threads flow from ancient wrist: red as war, thin as hope. Each one a debt owed, aged like fine wine in the gnarled body of the Godmother. A task needs doing. The Godmother examines her ledger, plucks a string, calls forth a godchild. If they are wise and clever they may escape with their soul unmarred. A broken promise will wound both ways: Godmother’s arms are laced with old scars. Her hut is surrounded by empty skulls. The Godmother’s smile is iron. She makes her request, and waits to hear wisdom or weakness.


I am curious about the last phrase, wisdom or weakness, since this really feels like a suicide metaphor and I don’t know that those words should play into it. I think It’s one of the more evocative pieces of the week so far.

Untitled 2

Was it real? Wasn’t real, no. Except the hole I dug is there, and my hands are dirty and blistered, my clothes are smeared and wet. What happened as I lay there? And how long did I lay, as lights circled above me? They drew patterns in the dark, and I could almost understand the shapes that streaked across my eyes like sparklers on the fourth of July. Did they make a picture? Or spell a word? I draw what I can remember, I fill page after page with pencil slashes, curves and spirals, waiting for the meaning to appear.


Does this work out of context with the rest? It’s a UFO/abduction story, and the obsessive behavior is right out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Fairy Ring

How long have I been crouched here? It feels like it's been ages. Humans normally come through here more often. When was the last one, a week ago?

The little goblin grumbles to himself about debts owed and how stupid humans don't walk through the woods like they used to.

A few minutes later, a jogger pauses on the footpath for a drink of water, checking their heartrate. The goblin sneaks up from behind and scares them. The jogger stumbles off the path, right into the fairy ring, disappearing in a flash.

Only forty-three more people to go! he cackles.


Why would the goblin be that enthused about making a bank payment? Also curious about what the debt is for, that’s more interesting than the actual capture of humans. How is the goblin scaring people? I don’t think someone would jump into the bushes if Dobby came up to them, they’d be more curious. So does Dobby manifest their fears a la It? I think this dances around all the interesting stuff and just says this happened, then this, then this.


The Forest

A forest full of plants of every shape and size, impossibly green and vibrant. The leaves shift in the breeze while streams of sunlight pour through the canopy, creating pools of light and glowing plants below. He could almost hear the babbling of a nearby brook, birdsong, and the orchestra of crickets. This beautiful sight would be his last. And to think, this world glimpsed in the eyes of a small, murderous fairy. Her pointy teeth are sharp and dripping with his blood as she stands on his face, peering into his eyes to see if he is still alive.


Bucolic scene juxtaposed with the grim. But these pint-sized fairies must be strong to stand on someone’s face, and yet still be able to take out a full grown human. If the fairy is already eating what does it care if the guy is still alive? The detachment of a hunter in their demesne would be an interesting take–fairy isn’t murderous, just an apex predator.

The Black Beast

The Morsel was quiet again, and its horrible mother had left to cook her foul "stew”. Peering from a crack in the wall, Snatchfast could see the Morsel had grown even plumper since their last attempt. His mouth watered in anticipation. He gestured to his kin, and they all rushed to the legs of the great table.

A terrible sound rang through the room. The cries of the black beast. Snatchfast signaled retreat, but it was too late. The beast snatched his robe in its snapping jaws and pinned him with one rough paw, canine teeth closing on his head.


Calling the kid Morsel is real good. Snatchfast is maybe too on-the-nose of a name since they get snapped up by the dog. A more ironic name like Freelegg or whatever and they get caught by hubris rather than hunger. Is there any other survival option for the little goblins?

Once I imagined cooking foul stew as a bad poop, I couldn’t unthink it.


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