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Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, please give me a story and genre!


Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

For the Trees
Job as Cyclical Claustrophobic Woodland Horror
1,714 words

Job rested his trowel gently by the side of the grave and ran a hand across the loam, taking care to avoid the first fragile, flowering snowdrops of spring.

“It’s a beautiful sight, Uzit,” he said with a sigh. “I just wish you could see it.”

Across the forest clearing, in the shadow of the farmhouse, his daughters laughed and chased each other through the rows of freshly turned soil. Petals trailed from their three flower crowns, leaving a trail across the fertile earth they had so carefully worked. Beyond them, on the border of the treeline - thick and dark and encircling - slumped the half carcass of the great deer Job had felled earlier, an old crescent-moon scar wrapped around its neck. By morning, the carcass would be gone - his half salted in the pantry and the Forest’s half spirited away, as was right and proper.

An ant ran across the ground by his fingers and Job stirred, idly sketching a line through the dirt that caused the ant to turn back in confusion. Another line, another turn - until the ant was trapped. He laughed and swept the circle away.

Job’s fingers traced the sign of the Forest unconsciously and he felt his soul stir. The sun shone down on his family’s little slice of heaven in the middle of the wilds and - despite the ache in his heart - all was right with the world.


In the summer, Job buried his daughters. Across three nights, the girls were spirited from their beds - and on the third night, from Job’s arms in the briefest moment of sleep - through locked and barred doors, without even the slightest of sounds. He found them, after weeks of ceaseless searching, at the border of the forest. Each showed every sign of having wandered for days, less than a stone’s throw from the clearing. He dug three graves, seeded with snowdrops for the spring, and wept as he made the sign of the Forest over each in turn.

In the autumn, the harvest failed. Every nurturing touch, every ministration to the slightest sign of rot, came to naught. The earth took back its bounty and so Job turned to the bounty of the forest - but though he trod the same paths and left the same offerings, his every prey eluded him. The rustle of the undergrowth was always just out of sight. The fat leached from his frame and the growing cold ate into his bones but with stiff and fumbling fingers he made the sign of the Forest again and again and again.

In the winter, as the first snow smoothed out the clearing and built up the skeletal trees, the heavens struck. Lightning descended from a clear blue sky and tore through the farmhouse while Job tended to his wife’s grave. For a few frantic, delirious hours he was warm again - but all too soon he was left in the cold and the ash as the charred timbers fell inwards, soon to be buried under the snow.

And so, on the night of midwinter, Job packed what little food remained and hung an axe from his belt, and slipped into the forest.


Job had walked the paths of the forest all his life - but now he took the older paths. The ones marked not in cleared earth or worn rock but by half-forgotten scents and a slight tug in the gut. The ones that led to the Forest itself. Job didn’t know what it would look like, only that he had to find it and to ask it why.

Twice, he came to a perfect split in the path and twice - as he knew to be right and proper - he stood a branch upright at the intersection and let its fall guide him. When snow fell too heavily for him to see, he built a shelter by muscle memory alone. When three birds flew overhead, followed by a trailing fourth, he made the sign of the Forest and turned the other way.

The branch guided him to thin ice over stagnant ponds. The shelter broke where it should have been strongest. The birds did not warn him of danger but drove him into it.

And at night, when Job hissed curses into the darkness, something snapped a twig and drew a little closer.

The days stretched and Job’s mind stretched with them, seeking to escape the cold and the hunger. He would come back to himself at odd hours, hands scrabbling under stones to find squirming bugs, a fistful already in his mouth. In the coldest nights, when he felt the spark of his life begin to dim, the winds would cease and he would wake to another frozen morning, scattered hoofprints drawing a circle in the snow around him.

The thin ice never broke before he could throw himself clear. The shelter never crushed him. The danger was never more than he could bear. His fingers twitched, curling into half-shapes that he no longer recognised.

When he came one night to a little clearing, he found he could stand the cold no longer. He tried to make a fire, to warm the last scraps of bread and melt a little snow, yet no matter how he looked, he could find no kindling on the forest floor. A spark within him, one he had thought long dead, roared into life and he tore the axe from his belt, the haft threatening to slip from dead fingers as he swung at the nearest tree. The blade barely bit through the bark before he pulled it back and swung again, again, again. The clearing echoed with his cries, the wind dead, and he swung until his arms could take no more.

Broken, drained and revulsed by the senseless barbarism of his deeds - ragged shards of bark staining the snow - Job fell to the ground, aching for the release of tears that would not come. His body curled in on itself, axe still clutched tight.

In the cold and the quiet, hooves crunched through the snow. A badger, fat with winter stores, dropped to the snow by his head, neck snapped. Questions forgotten, all thought forgotten, Job turned his face to the heavens.

A crescent-moon scar cradled the deer’s neck, skin taut and frostbitten. One dead eye glinted in the moonlight, unseeing. No breath clouded the air in front of it. The monstrosity of it turned Job’s stomach and he recoiled, mind now ablaze. What had he done to be tormented by this beast?

And then the deer turned and Job saw what had replaced the half he had salted.

Corded vines flexed and twisted in place of muscles. Bark formed flat plates, armour against some unimaginable predator. Wildflowers of every hue wove their way around its brow, crowning it in the colours of summer. The deer stood over him, whole: half given to the Forest and half of the Forest.

Empty. Unknowable. Half-dead, a mockery of his family. Half-live, a mockery of the Forest. The whole was so much worse than the sum of its parts.

The deer kicked the badger towards him with a hoof made of stone. Job recoiled from the movement and swung, brain trailing arm. The axe bit, deep, and lodged in the wooden plates of its leg. The deer didn’t flinch, didn’t move, didn’t chase after him as he leapt past it and dove for the safety of the forest.

Trees parted for him, rocks shifted to match his footsteps and snow melted away as Job ran, only a single thought screaming through his mind: away. Legs that were more skin than muscle pushed him forwards, lungs that burned with every breath gulped down the frigid midnight air and silence, utter silence, followed him. When he burst into an open clearing the shock of it caught his legs under him and he crashed to the ground.

Burnt timber stood in stark contrast to the snow. The badger, fat and dead, lay next to a stack of kindling and logs. By the edge of the forest, the deer stood over the shape of four snow-covered graves, stone hoof pawing at the ground as snow melted away to reveal dark loam. In one dreadful moment Job saw the circle around him in the writhing of its vines, saw the lines scratched into the dirt. He saw the forest and for the first time in a long and pious life, he saw the Forest circling around him in all its terror. His fingers forced themselves into the familiar shape, joints aching and sinews protesting, as a tear ran down his cheek.

He could see the Forest in every rock and branch. He could see the vastness of its mind in the shape of the snowdrifts but couldn’t begin to see its thoughts.

Only its dreadful, miraculous offer.

On unsteady feet he rose, feeling his body devour itself to fuel his slow march to the ruins of the farmhouse. He passed by the badger and the firewood without a moment’s thought, feet dragging furrows through the snow. The trees that ringed the clearing leaned in to watch as memory guided him through the rubble, searching on his knees and only rising when his hand found the charred handle of the shovel, metal head gleaming in the moonlight.


Job rested his trowel gently by the side of the grave and ran a hand across the loam, taking care to avoid the first fragile, flowering snowdrops of spring.

“It’s a beautiful sight, Uzit,” he said with a sigh. “I just wish you could see it.”

Uzit grinned at him from under a wreath of wildflowers. Across the forest clearing, in the shadow of the rebuilt farmhouse, his daughters chased each other through the rows of freshly turned soil. Petals trailed from their three flower crowns, leaving a trail across the fertile earth they had so carefully worked. Beyond them, on the border of the treeline - thick and dark and encircling - slumped the great deer, an old crescent-moon scar wrapped around its neck.

Job’s fingers traced the sign of the Forest unconsciously and he felt his eyes well up. The sun shone down on his family’s little slice of heaven in the middle of the wilds.

All was right with the world.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Week 545: New Beginnings

Let's go with an old favourite this week. When you sign up, I'll assign you the first line of something I've read relatively recently (or at least pretended to have read). It could be a great classic of literature, something I have on my bookshelf or nerd trash pulled from the depths of Kindle Unlimited. You must use that line as the first line of your story but it won't count towards your wordcount. And to really spell it out, while the rest of your story should flow from that opening line you are not here to write fanfic or a retelling of the story it came from. That's because in addition, I'll assign a theme and a setting that you must use.

  • Opening Line: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
  • Theme: Treasure Hunt
  • Setting: Western

Get creative, get clever and above all be bold in how you interpret the three points you are given.

Maximum Wordcount: 1,500 words not including your assigned first line.

Signup Deadline: Saturday 14th 8AM (GMT) / 2AM US Central
Submission Deadline: Monday 16th 8AM (GMT) / 2AM US Central

  • Staggy
  • Chernobyl Princess
  • Antivehicular

  • Rohan
  • BeefSupreme
  • cptn_dr
  • WindwardAway
  • Chairchucker
  • Tibalt
  • QuoProQuid
  • Dicere
  • Albatrossy_Rodent
  • Admiralty Flag
  • flerp
  • DoomsdayPrepperoni

Staggy fucked around with this message at 23:21 on Jan 16, 2023

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

rohan posted:

here for a new beginning
Opening Line: The pandemonium of daily life is a creeping, insidious thing, always lurking just behind the veil of your consciousness but carefully not to peak all the way through. (The physical manifestation of Twiddor's rapid descent into chaos thanks to inept management from a manbaby edgelord pounds me in the butt.)
Theme: Rivalry
Setting: Space Opera

Opening Line: He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. (The Old Man and the Sea)
Theme: Murder Mystery
Setting: Cyberpunk

Opening Line: It began with the forging of the Great Rings. (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
Theme: Murder Mystery
Setting: Dystopia

WindwardAway posted:

Woohoo, time for me to in!
Opening Line: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. (The Great Gatsby)
Theme: Horror
Setting: Modern-Day

Opening Line: This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game. (The Player of Games)
Theme: Addiction
Setting: Mafia

Opening Line: Shadow had done three years in prison. (American Gods)
Theme: Coming of Age
Setting: Virtual Reality


Opening Line: "Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man." (Forever War)
Theme: Forgiveness
Setting: Steampunk

Dicere posted:

IN for A New Beginning

I have no idea lol. Probably not. Some were mad he played Biden's inaugural.
Opening Line: There was a razorstorm coming in. (Revelation Space)
Theme: Prejudice
Setting: Science Fiction

Opening Line: There's a wise saying that goes like this: A real gentleman never discusses women he's broken up with or how much tax he's paid. (What I talk about when I talk about running)
Theme: War
Setting: Fairy Tale

Admiralty Flag posted:


Thanks. I wanted to make sure you knew that the Tetrarch Herod Antipas' ultimate fate was Caligula exiling him to Gaul, which is where I got the whole Paris[, Texas] idea from -- thought you might get a minor chuckle out of that if you didn't know that tidbit.
Opening Line: When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. (Travels with Charley))
Theme: Individual Versus Society
Setting: Ancient Rome

Staggy fucked around with this message at 01:05 on Jan 12, 2023

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Thankee kindly to the two co-judges!

Beezus posted:

Yeah ok in.
Opening Line: The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. (Neuromancer)
Theme: Lost Love
Setting: Lovecraftian

Opening Line: Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. (Romeo & Juliet)
Theme: Myth
Setting: Ancient Rome

Opening Line: It was the day my grandmother exploded. (The Crow Road)
Theme: Survival
Setting: Fairy Tale

Opening Line: I am an invisible man. (Invisible Man)
Theme: Search for Identity
Setting: Prehistoric

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

:siren: HELLRULE RAFFLE :siren:

To spice things up a bit, I'm announcing the Hellrule Raffle. There is one, and only one, opening line so bad, so deep, that it deserves special consideration.


If you want to take a gamble, you can throw your hat in the ring and ask to enter the raffle. You have until 10pm GMT / 4pm US Central tomorrow (the 11th) to enter. That's a little under 20 hours. At that time, I'll choose one of the entrants at random and they will be allocated the opening line (plus a setting and theme). If they already have one, their previous opening line (and setting and theme) will be taken away and may be assigned to a new entrant in the future.

But what do you get out of it? Other than the knowledge that you stepped up to the plate? Two things:
  • You can't lose this week. So long as you write a story you will, at worst, get a DM.
  • A 500 word increase, giving you 2,000 words total to work with (again, excluding the line itself).

If you haven't entered this week yet and you want to have a go at the raffle, feel free - if your name isn't drawn, you'll be assigned an opening line/setting/theme as normal when the raffle draw closes. You must enter the week (either previously or as part of the raffle entry) to particpate.

To enter: just post here saying you want to enter. Nobody will be entered automatically.

To reiterate, entering the raffle is entirely optional and you must specify in your post that you want to do so.

Staggy fucked around with this message at 00:41 on Jan 11, 2023

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Opening Line: The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. (The Go-Between)
Theme: Search for Identity
Setting: Dark Fantasy

Opening Line: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit (The Hobbit)
Theme: Patriotism
Setting: Distant Future

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

:siren: Raffle Results :siren:

Congratulations Tibalt! Let's see what you've "won":

Opening Line: Hi my name is Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and I have long ebony black hair (that’s how I got my name) with purple streaks and red tips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Amy Lee (AN: if u don’t know who she is get da hell out of here!). (My Immortal)
Theme: Treasure Hunt
Setting: Medieval

As a reminder, your personal wordcount is 2,000 words (excluding the opening line) and as long as you submit something this week, the worst you can do is get a DM. All other rules apply as usual (no editing, etc.).

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Sign-ups are now closed.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Submissions are now most definitely closed.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Week 545 Results

First of all, thank you to everyone who submitted for what I thought was a relatively strong week across the board. Not strong enough to save everybody but a good showing all the same. Thanks also to the co-judges, as always.

The loss goes to Chairchucker for Love of the Game.
The DM goes to Dicere for Hostile Work Environment.
The HN goes to sebmojo for My Kingdom, and a Horse.
The win goes to Beezus for The Last Mariner of Port Kirney.

Take it away :siren: Beezus :siren:

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Thunderdome Week 545 - Crits

Admiralty Flag - Some Roads Lead from Rome
Individual v Society / Ancient Rome

Good blending of the first line into your actual opening. Your PoV character is a cocky little poo poo, which I love. I worry a little that you’re spending too long on the opening scene - I think you could have moved to the scene break quicker and cut out a bit of dead weight (the return of Horace, for example).

After that - everything between the two ###s - reads well enough and flows well enough. It just feels a little disjointed - the societal conflict takes backseat to the retelling of the PoV character’s life. You bring it back in the end but it doesn’t feel as developed as it could otherwise.

And let’s talk about your ending. Just gonna waltz in here and whack your fascinus out onto the table like that with that pun? If I’m going by TD kayfabe I’m impressed - but if I’m looking at the story, I’m a bit disappointed. It undercuts what was otherwise quite a heartfelt story because now I can’t read the rest of it as anything but an excuse for the pun.

And your PoV character, particularly given the opening, does not strike me as someone inclined to wordplay, even at the end.

Your prose is seamless and you clearly know your stuff on the setting - or at least enough to fool a layperson - but it would have been stronger if you’d stuck the landing.

Albatrossy_Rodent - Love, War and Other Acts of Superiority
War / Fairy Tale

This is a very fun interpretation of your prompt. If I had a quibble (hey diddle diddle) it’s that the “war” part is very distant. I’m not looking for Thumbelina storming the beaches at Normandy but I’d have liked to see a little more than this.

Your dialogue is good, if a bit cliche. Which is sort of my main fault with the story as a whole. It’s fine and all but feels a little bit too much like fairy tale names stretched over Interrogation Scene A, if that makes sense. I like the lines that have a bit more spark (“Must’ve scooped some bad stew.”) and would have liked to see more of that, particularly when it comes to distinguishing the characters through their dialogue.

Competently told and no longer than it needed to be but a little bit safe.

Beezus - The Last Mariner of Port Kirney
Lost Love / Lovecraftian

I really, really like how you’ve tied in your opening line, setting and theme. I particularly like how you call back to it later on with the messages in the static.

Having read the story through once I looked back and was a little confused by Oliver’s actions in going out on the boat - after all, if he (it?) knew what was going on, what was the point? When I went back and re-read that part, it made a little more sense (the emphasis on “must be people”, as though trying to convince himself) but could stand to be developed a bit more.

This ticks all the boxes of “Lovecraftian” as far as I’m concerned except one: the response of Euri. Euri comes across a little flat and emotionless and when that can be attributed to grief that makes sense - but once she sails into the fog, I’d like to know a little more about what she was thinking. There was a missing sense of psychological horror and I think you’d need that to be demonstrated through your lead character.

You stuck the landing, though. I thought you were going for an Orpheus with “don’t look back” but I much prefer the dreadful weight of there being no escape - just the barest shred of mercy through ignorance.

Tibalt - The Veil of Veronica
Treasure Hunt / Medieval

First of all, thanks for taking the raffle prize in good stead.

And what a prize it is! Congratulations on blending the opening line into your story - I was eagerly waiting to see how you managed it and was not disappointed. The opening was otherwise a bit rough - a bit too much exposition for my tastes - but did the job. At the end of the first scene I know what the setup is and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes wrong.

I’ll admit, the betrayal was not something I saw coming.

Okay, I’m being very pedantic but in your opening you talk about the ridiculous idea of being mistaken for someone else - and then later you talk about the almost identical sister. That’s minor in the grand scheme of things but does mark the point where things go a little loose. The sister and the rivalry are introduced too late for me to care and after that it’s just Ebony flexing on how amazing they are. Which was unnecessarily close to the source material.

I enjoyed the first third to a half and I think with a bit more polish the ending could have been a neat little twist. As it is, it didn’t quite do it for me.

Dicere - Hostile Work Environment
Prejudice / Science Fiction

Your worldbuilding is pretty slick, and ties nicely into the opening line, but so far doesn’t feel particularly tied to the story. Maybe that will change.

There are a couple of typos and grammatical errors that I’ve spotted - nothing major but enough to disrupt the flow of the story. “Scraping of their double sided griddles”, for example, or “It’ll go to the grandkids” in the middle of a past tense story.

Your dialogue is mainly fine but “bloody loving hell” sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s a bit cartoonish and doesn’t fit the otherwise grounded tone. The dialogue then gets a bit confused - in the scene in the command trailer, I had trouble telling who was speaking at any given turn and - to be honest - who the three characters were. You don’t necessarily need three characters if you can make do with two and I think that applies here.

And then the ending is a mess. Who killed John? One of the Amer group? Because they’d be approaching from the front, not the back. Owen or Davies (I can’t tell them apart at this point)? It just feels very “then everybody died, the end, no moral”.

Your story takes too long to get going and then doesn’t seem to know where it’s going. I’d like to see this after another couple of editing passes.

Thranguy - Better than Fire
Search for Identity / Prehistoric

Good use of the prompt, good interpretation of “search for identity”, good prose. Good dialogue. I fall into the age-old problem of “what do I have to crit when I generally just liked what I read?”

The ending felt a little rushed. Right up until the end, I forgot about the “invisible man” aspect of the story/prompt and it felt a little like the story did too, having to suddenly cover it and tie up that loose end. If nothing else, have the nameless god see Aaron’s face or something as he flees.

That final line, though - that’s a drat good final line. It almost feels wasted on a story that otherwise ignores the invisible aspect. A little more earlier on, a little something to indicate that Aaron might be watching or might be malicious, and I’d remember that final line for a long time. As it is, I think it’ll fade from memory fairly quickly.

Sebmojo - My Kingdom, and a Horse
Survival / Fairy Tale

I’m struggling here, I really am.

I mean, this is a tidy little story that’s very competently told and it oozes tone - I just don’t think I’ll remember it for very long. Put it in a lineup and ask me to pick out the sebmojo story? Sure, no problem. Ask me to describe it a month from now? I’d struggle.

But hey, there are worse outcomes than “wrote a good story, I guess”. And because this feels like an unsatisfying ending for a crit, I will say that I really liked the character of Isabella. Stereotypical without being a stereotype.

And the line “Isabella wasn’t stupid - or rather, she was, but in the kind of way that leaves a lot of room for some surprisingly base cunning - and I could see the wheels turning.” felt very Pratchett-esque, which always appeals to me.

Cptn_dr - Into the West
Murder Mystery / Dystopia

You know, I love scifi megastructures and it never occurred to me to turn your opening line into an orbital ring reference. Nice choice!

I like what you’ve written, it just doesn’t feel like a story. It feels like the opening to a story - if you told me this was the prologue to a novel, where the action shifted to solving Addie’s murder, then I’d buy it - but for a short story, there’s too much buildup and basically no payoff. Which is a pity, because I really do like what you’ve written - in particular, I think you’ve done a good job at worldbuilding with short, efficient snippets (up until entering the lab, at which point it all turns a bit generic scifi “Project Lazarus” etc.).

I recognise the struggles of a theme like Murder Mystery in a short story format but you’d have been better off focusing on a specific scene or concept. As it is, you tried to fit too much into your wordcount. Personally, I’m just not a fan of sudden “and then the main character died” endings.

Well written, just the wrong focus.

Chairchucker - Love of the Game
Addiction / Mafia

You didn’t do yourself a ton of favours here.

Your character voice starts off a little grating. The constant corrections and double-backs (“you can’t put a price … well, I suppose technically they did”, etc.) could, in theory, come off as nervous or high strung or something but didn’t quite work for me here.

I don’t normally notice sentence structure but you’ve got a lot of two-sentence (or three, at a pinch) paragraphs that all have the same rhythm. It starts to read more like a list than a story.

Just about everything between the opening line and “until the final day” could have been cut. The final day is where the story is starting - which leaves precious little time to actually tell a story. Which I think you know because the story is less a story and more a joke I could see as a tweet.

Did I go back and check whether there had ever been a mention of a specific game or if I had just assumed it was poker, craps, etc.? Sure, which was fun, but that could have come at the end of a story where the main character actually did something.

Decent concept, I guess.

BeefSupreme - Fish and (Dead)Chips
Murder Mystery / Cyberpunk

You’ve got some good concepts here and the writing is solid but the story is a bit muddled.

Graves’ goal isn’t clear from the start - staking out Cookie, sure, but we don’t know why. We know there’s business “with Bishop’s kids” but don’t know if that’s related or not. Could be a throwaway detail. Presumably, Graves is looking for Bishop’s kids - but “the business” suggests they know what happened. It sounds like Graves suspects Cookie of moving “product” which could be anything - so why take them in as a lead in a missing persons case?

I could go on like this but ultimately it feels like there’s half a story I’m not seeing, one which probably only you know. Still, it’s a complete story in its own right and you did a great job with incorporating the first line.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, gift tax and nature tax please

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

1,287 / 1,400 words
Gift: Close Friends
Tax: Privacy - something is always watching

Larry dropped his weight back and strained, arms burning with the dead weight until Kyle’s sneakers finally found a half-hearted purchase. One last heave brought him over the edge and the two men fell - one forwards, one back - onto the rocky rise. The sun was high above them, with the thin pines offering little protection - just the judgmental glare of the ever-present crows - so the hot stone scorched the back of Larry’s neck. He didn’t move - while Kyle scrambled immediately into scant shade - except to take a sip from his water pack.

“drat thing got taller,” Kyle panted. “You never said it got taller.”
“Hill’s the same,” Larry said with a smile, “you’re just older. You should come out more often, you know, there’s -”
“- over 200 miles of trails in this park alone,” Kyle finished. “Pass. This trail’s fine - ‘sides, I came out for Kerry’s thing.”
Larry purposefully did not point out that Kerry’s 30th had been in the picnic area by the carpark, or that it had been over a year ago.

“You hungry yet?” he asked after another sip.
“‘Yet’?” Kyle laughed. “Don’t worry about me - got my famous trail mix right here.” The sound of a rustled ziploc reached back two decades and pulled a memory forwards. “Got GORP for days. Gummy bears -”
“- Oreos and Reese’s Pieces.” Larry groaned. “Oh god, don’t tell me you brought flat Pepsi too.”
“Opened a bottle last night just for you.”
“drat it,” Larry said with a smile, “you remembered.”
“Hell yeah, I remembered.” Kyle tossed a plastic bottle towards him and it hit the rocks by his head. It was warm to the touch and when he tasted it, Larry found it lacked the appeal of youth or the bitter taste of stolen rum.

“Nosy buggers, aren’t they?”
Larry looked up from the sickly sweet drink just in time to see Kyle whip a pebble into the branches above. One crow hopped half-heartedly to the side but the pebble otherwise went clattering into the undergrowth.
“Hey, what the gently caress?” Larry chucked the bottle back at Kyle who caught it, the cap coming loose and spilling sticky syrup across the ground. “Cut that out!”
“Relax!” Kyle dropped the bottle and a handful of pebbles, his face twisting. “It’s just a stinking bird!”
“And what’s it ever done to you?”
The steady sense of calm that Larry had built, brick-by-brick and step-by-step, over the past two hours began to crumble.
“It’s staring at me, that’s what! poo poo, I thought the one good part about coming out here would be nobody staring at me! Don’t it drive you nuts being out here, all them creepy eyes following you?”

Larry glanced upwards and immediately felt annoyed with himself for humouring the idea. Twenty years of hiking and he’d never given the birds much thought except when they stole his sandwiches. He said as much to Kyle.

“Well, I hate it,” Kyle said. “Judgemental assholes.”
“They’re just birds,” Larry said, focusing on the ground under his legs.
“gently caress if I have to explain myself to you,” Kyle replied.
“To me?” The annoyance slipped through Larry’s guard before he could stop it.
“Yeah, you.” Kyle kicked up a cloud of dust and pine needles. “You and Kerry and Ray.”
“Well, poo poo,” Larry said through gritted teeth, “not like you just named your three oldest friends or anything.”
“Some friends,” Kyle muttered. He sank back against one of the trees, his face red and thunderous. “You don’t want nothing to do with me. After Sheila left -”

“No!” Larry’s patience snapped and the rising annoyance flashed to anger. “Whatever you were gonna say, forget it! We have been nothing but patient. The nights in, the movie marathons - that goddamn intolerable beer pong tournament! We’ve been there for you, man, but we have lives of our own and they tend to take place outside the four walls of your goddamn apartment!”

Kyle’s face went slack and for a few seconds he just flopped his mouth. “Well, I’m sorry,” he eventually managed, “if my life is so goddamn boring to you.”


Larry’s shout echoed through the trees, startling a few of the nearer crows who turned to watch with renewed interest. His heart was beating harder than he’d ever felt it on a hike, his face was on fire and his vision had narrowed to focus on that goddamn rear end in a top hat Kyle.

“You spend sixteen hours a day on the sofa watching ESPN and the other eight hours dreaming about it! You’ve never met a delivery driver you didn’t think was spitting in your food! You see a car crash on the news and somehow you’re the victim! That’s not a life, that’s a life sentence! And the worst of it is, this happens every single time you get dumped.”

Larry rose, buoyed up by anger.

“We reach out, we pick you up and then two weeks later you’ve fallen down again and it’s starting to seem like you do it on purpose!”

“Oh boo-loving-hoo,” Kyle growled, “it must be so hard being friends with me. I’d hate to keep you from being out here in all this fresh air. Why the hell did you drag me along anyway? Couldn’t stand the thought of not peering over my shoulder all day? I don’t need the great outdoors! I don’t need two hundred miles of trails and I sure as hell don’t need to be watched by loving birds all the time!”

He scooped a handful of dirt and threw it at the nearest crow but the wind just blew it back in his face, leaving him spluttering and coughing. Larry couldn’t help but laugh and then, suddenly, Kyle was on him in a dusty, snotty whirlwind of kicks and punches. The two of them tumbled over and over, the world rolling around Larry as he kicked and punched in return. His water pack split under him, one eye was full of dust and adrenaline burned every one of his veins white-hot, scorching out any thought - until the ground shifted under him and suddenly was gone, leaving only empty air.

He dangled backwards over the edge of the rise, sky and trees and crows and Kyle - one eye bruising and his face caked with snot-mud - towering over him. His weight pinned Larry’s legs - and by extension, Larry - to the ground. His chest heaved in and out in great, weary sighs. Above him, a murder gathered.

“gently caress you,” he croaked.
“gently caress you.” Larry tried to spit at him but gravity just brought it back down in his face.

Kyle grunted. Then the grunt turned into a laugh and Larry couldn’t help but join in. Eventually - and carefully - Kyle rolled off of him and helped him up, until the two of them were sat on the edge of the rise, shoulders almost touching. The crows dispersed - for the most part - and in time, a ziploc appeared. Kyle tried to spoon the crushed, melted mess into his mouth with his fingers but quickly stopped, a look of disgust on his face.

“I’m sorry, I …” he began.
When Kyle’s voice trailed off, Larry sighed. “You always are.”
“Is it worth it?” Kyle gestured to the valley below them, the long expanse of pine trees disappearing into the distance. “Whole lot of work and pain just to end up right back where you started.”

Larry thought it over for a few minutes. He was sweaty and sore and it was another two hours back to the head of the trail. An hour after that, they’d be trapped within their respective four walls again.

“Well,” he said, slowly and wearily, “it beats doing nothing. And sometimes the company’s worth it.”

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In. I seek the wisdom of the prophet.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Bob’s Monster Hands
"I want them to write a monster with hands that turn into fire."
1,105 words

Bob was a monster.

Bob was a very special monster, because he could turn his hands into fire. He couldn’t turn them back again but that was okay because Bob had lots and lots of hands. Big hands, little hands, smooth hands, hairy hands. Hands with long fingers, perfect for picking pockets, and hands with stubby fingers, great for grabbing grubs.

Bob wasn’t a very fierce monster. He had big, sharp teeth (which monsters like) and was very smelly (which monsters love) but he wasn’t very loud and actually quite reserved. He lived in a cave on a mountain, like most monsters, but his cave wasn’t the normal damp and squidgy and nasty cave. It was cold, yes, but also dry and completely free of critters. On the days where it got so cold that Bob couldn’t take it any more, he’d choose one of his hands and turn it into fire and make himself nice and warm for as long as the fire lasted - which was as long as Bob wanted.

The monsters who lived higher up the mountain couldn’t turn their hands into fire and didn’t have nice dry caves. Their caves were very damp and very squidgy - perfect for monsters - and full of food and fun games and the like. Every night they looked down the mountain at Bob’s cave - which had none of those things - and talked in jealous tones about the flicker of light around his door. They didn’t need fires, not really, but seeing someone else with one made them want fires.

One day, a cruel and clever monster - who didn’t like Bob very much - had an idea. He crept down the mountain and - after rolling in mud and slime - knocked on Bob’s door. When Bob answered, the monster fell to his knees and begged Bob for help.

“Fire,” he gasped, “give me fire! Why, I’ll turn into an icicle if you don’t help me get warm!”

Now, Bob didn’t much like the other monster but he didn’t want to see them turn into an icicle. He scratched his head and snorted through his whiskery nostrils and wasn’t quite sure what to do.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I can only turn my hands into fire - and I can’t turn them back!”

“But you have lots and lots of hands,” the monster said with a sly grin. “I’m only asking for one - why are you being so greedy?”

Now, nobody - not even monsters - likes to be called greedy. Bob didn’t think he was greedy - he thought he was really rather nice. So he found his least favourite hand - one that ached when rain was near and always had something unpleasant under its fingernails - and with a puff of smoke, turned it into fire. He gave it to the monster at the door who scooped it up and ran away laughing and cheering and didn’t once say thank you.

That night, the other monsters on the mountain crowded around the new fire and listened to what had happened and began to make plans of their own.

The next day, a monster from even further up the mountain knocked on Bob’s door. She was large and loud and also didn’t like Bob; when he opened the door she leaned inside and bellowed into his face.

“FIRE!” she cried.

“But -” Bob began, before he was rudely interrupted.

“BAH!” the monster snorted. “YOU’VE GOT SO MANY! STOP BEING SELFISH!”

Well, that made Bob feel rather bad about himself. While the monster sneered at him, Bob found a hand he didn’t need - as he had another one that was almost identical - and with a puff of smoke, turned it into fire. The monster snatched it from him, turned around and strode back up the mountain. She also didn’t say thank you.

The next day there was another monster at Bob’s door and another after that. Soon there were two monsters a day and soon after that there was a long line that snaked twice around the mountain’s base, made of monsters jeering and pushing each other as they waited for a turn at Bob’s door. No matter how many came, Bob couldn’t say no to any of them - not when they called him greedy or selfish or mean. Some monsters even queued up twice - they didn’t need two fires but they liked tricking Bob.

He turned all of his aching, hurting hands to fire. Then he turned all of his spare hands to fire too. After that it was hairy ones (so he didn’t have to shave them) and stubby ones (because he didn’t like grubs) and long-fingered ones (because he wasn’t very good at picking pockets). Each time he worried about what he’d do when he ran out and each time he told himself not to worry and that it was better than being selfish.

Then, one day, Bob woke up and realised he had no hands left! Not big ones or small ones or hairy ones or smooth ones - they were all gone, turned to fire and warming up caves across the mountain. All of a sudden he was very cold and frightfully upset.

“Why?” he cried, “why did I turn all my hands to fire? Oh, if I’d only kept one or two. Maybe if I ask nicely, the other monsters will let me sit by their fires now.”

But the other monsters were cruel and still didn’t much like Bob and wouldn’t let him into their caves. They were also quite annoyed at him because now he couldn’t make any more fires and even though they all had one and didn’t need one, they still wanted more. Bob went back to his cave that night cold and tired and sad.

Bob cried for a long time that night. It was very dark and very quiet on the mountain when he stopped and he lay there for a while, thinking.

“The other monsters all have fires now,” he said to himself, “and lots of hands too. I don’t have either and I desperately need both. Maybe … maybe they wouldn’t miss just one or two.”

And so Bob crept out of his cave and back up the mountain to where the other monsters were all asleep around their fires. He didn’t have any hands now but he still had his big, sharp teeth - and by the time the sun came up and the other monsters started to wake up he’d have lots and lots of hands again. Scaly hands and slimy hands and bony hands and wormy hands.

But he’d only take one from each monster. After all, he wasn’t greedy.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes


Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Rent Free
1,199 words

Lydia woke up to the sight of a ghost floating over her bed.

It wasn’t a particularly scary ghost but in the moment the shock caused her to throw a pillow at - through - it. There was a soft sucking sound and a worryingly damp pillow hit the floor.

“Do you mind?” the ghost asked.

“Do you mind?” Lydia snapped back. “Who do you think you are, floating into my house and watching me sleep?”

“Well you may have turned it into your house,” the ghost said, “but I think you’ll find it was - and still is - my skull.”

Lydia’s eyes flicked to the ivory arc of the ceiling overhead. The weak sunlight of a cloudy morning shone through the glass-paned eye sockets and between them, a rough wooden door blocked off the nasal cavity. It wasn’t an easy task to match the scene with the figure floating in front of her but if she mentally stripped away the ghostly flesh and tried to picture herself looking out rather than in

“drat it,” she muttered. “She said no prior occupants. Knew the listing was too good to be true.”

“Yes,” the ghost said, rolling its eyes, “well I suppose that’s what you get for trusting a witch with a realtor’s licence. And the Valley of Fallen Gods is such an up-and-coming neighbourhood, I’m sure. Now do be a dear and clear out - this is just undignified.”

“Hey, I am not moving out!” Lydia climbed out of bed and stormed into the kitchen. “I don’t know what it was like when you were alive but the market right now is awful - I’d rather live in my own skull than look for another place.”

“When I was alive, I strode the endless plains with the north wind for my shelter and the south wind for my bedding,” the ghost replied. “Armies trembled, the heavens shook and I covered four-score leagues with every step. I may have worn the bones of my enemies but I certainly didn’t turn them into a breakfast nook.”

Lydia found her matches and pulled a bundle of sage from the herb rack. With a strike and a flare of light, she lit the bundle and shoved the smoking tips towards the ghost. It looked down at them for several seconds, before floating onto them. The fire was snuffed out and a scent like burnt wet dog filled the air.

“Sage was old when I was alive,” it said. “What’s next? Trepanning? Oh wait - you’ve already put a chimney in.”

“Worth a shot,” Lydia grumbled. “Look, don’t you have some unfinished business or something? You get your eternal rest or reward or whatever it is gods do in the afterlife and I get my house back.”

“Well,” the ghost said, “as a matter of fact, there is something that troubles me. Something that unsettles my very spirit and binds me to this mortal plane.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes, you see there’s this sad woman who’s stuffed my final resting place full of quilts and dirty laundry.”

“Are you going to just float around until I agree to move out?”

“If I have to,” the ghost said in clipped tones. Despite being dressed like an ancient warrior king, it spoke like a peeved bank clerk.

Lydia groaned and sat down on a stool. “But why? What do you care if I’m living here? You’re dead!”

“Well I don’t see how that’s relevant. It’s my head and I want it nice and empty.”

“Same as ever, I’m guessing.”

“I heard that.”

“But if you force me out, where am I supposed to go?”

“Somewhere else. That does not concern me.”

“Half the valley’s dead gods!”

“Then that’s half less than is rightfully ours!”

“You can’t expect to hold onto it forever - you can’t expect the living to live in the cracks between the dead!”

“I expect my commands to be followed,” the ghost snapped. “Diminished as my stature may be, I am still a god. Now, I command you to bugger off.”

“What if I found you somewhere else to haunt?”

“I don’t want to haunt anywhere, I want my skull back!”

“Followers, then! Lots of followers, all singing your praises!”

“Hah!” the ghost laughed bitterly. “What manner of fool would worship a dead god?”

“In this economy? There’s a lot of desperate people out there. What were you a god of?”

“Fletching, whittling and oran husbandry.” The ghost caught Lydia’s puzzled expression and rolled its eyes. “A type of cattle. Extinct now, of course.”

“Of course,” Lydia said. “Well, you could retrain!”

“Or you could vacate my skull at once!”

“Picture it! Hundreds - no, thousands of people, all chanting your name! All swearing loyalty to you - it’ll be just like when you were alive!”

“Thousands, you say?” The ghost adopted a thoughtful expression. “Well … it has been a while since I’ve had a good following. And you really think there’s that sort of appetite for whittling?”

“Retraining, remember?”

“Right, right! Something new. Something … fresh.”

The ghost cast its eyes around the inside of its skull. It trailed one finger along the kitchen countertop, leaving a thin trail that made Lydia shudder.

“My skull,” it said, “you captured it yourself, yes? Cleaned it out?”

“Time cleaned it out,” Lydia said. “I put up everything you can see - but it was my landlord who ‘captured’ it, I guess. Really they just got here first.”

“To capture the body of a god is no small feat,” the ghost muttered. “Even a dead one. This … ‘landlord’. Would they need a god?”

“They could probably stand to find religion, the amount they’re charging me, but the last thing they need is a god backing them.”

“A pity,” the ghost said. “I thought perhaps, that with half the valley full of the living amongst the dead, there would be countless such lords in need of my guidance.”

“Only a handful, actually,” Lydia said.

“As I say, a pity.”

The ghost floated around the living room, peering at the boxes of unpacked clothes and assorted sediment of Lydia’s life. The windows fogged as it passed and the few houseplants that had survived the move began to wilt.

“When you were alive,” Lydia said slowly, “you say armies trembled at your presence.”

“Hmm? Oh, yes.”

“And your followers?”

“Prosperous, secure and happy,” the ghost said. “Their arrows outnumbered the stars and their cattle were fatter than the mountains.” Though it faced away from her, Lydia could see a blurred smile form through the back of its head. “Those were the days …”

“Then it’s settled!” Lydia slapped her palm on the countertop - trying not to flinch when it hit the trail of whatever it was the ghost had left behind - and stood up. “I know where we’ll find your new followers - and then you’ll let me live here in peace.”

The ghost turned slowly. “I would … consider it. But where do you expect to find such crowds?”

Lydia pulled a stack of leaflets out from under a mug. “It’s called a renter’s union,” she said with a smile, “and I think you’re exactly what they need.”

She paused.

“Well, maybe not the oran husbandry.”

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, please give me a flash rule.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

The Grand Imperial Hotel
1,373 / 1,500 words
Your hotel is the former jewel of an imperial power, left to languish in a colonized country, a decrepit reminder of fleeting foreign arrogance.

Mr Sykes pulled needle and thread through the frayed edges of the carpet, squinting in the gloom. The stone tiles outside of the island of fabric were cold, the oppressive local heat kept out by the thick stone of the Grand Imperial Hotel. On distant walls, tall windows - which had once shown the surrounding dunes - now stood in the shadow of new-build highrises clad in the local white clay.

“What is UP my friends, it’s ya boi, KyKy, coming at you live from the G.I.H.! You voted for it so here it is - the 24-hour sea-imp stream!”

Mr Sykes rose to find a twisted mockery of himself on the other side of the reception desk. Hair slicked down and parted but not combed. A cheap printed suit, already splitting at the seams. Worst of all, a string of countless fat, braided cords sat around their neck.

Mr Sykes’ hand went to the three hard-won braids at his own throat, before he remembered himself.

“Welcome, honoured guest!” he intoned. “Welcome, to the Grand -”

“YO! xX_Shu_Xx thank you for the superchat!”

Mr Sykes eyed the pic-drone bobbing behind the guest’s shoulder nervously.

“You stand on imperial soil,” he continued, “as my father and his fathers before him decreed. At this, the farthest reach of the Three-Part Empire, I bid you enter, and take succor.”

“Yo, check it out, chat! We match! Hey, bro, what’s the story? Don’t you guys always have a sea-imp story to go with the bling?”

The guest tugged at their necklace and gurned for the pic-drone, which swivelled to get Mr Sykes in the background. He swallowed and forced a sombre expression.

“I am honoured to wear my fathers’ deeds,” he said, a prickle of annoyance twisting through his body. “One for my great-grandfather, at the Battle of Zealandia. One for his brother, at the victory over the Doggerland fleet. One for their father, for … valour.”

It burned him to cut short the declaration of deeds but “for the sacking of these lands” tended to go down poorly with the locals.

“Hear that, chat? Guess that makes me real valourous too!”

The guest’s laughter remained with Mr Sykes long after the bellhop had guided them away, through the path to the lifts swept in the dust of the lobby floor.


“Hey, service! Service!”

Mr Sykes sighed and abandoned the hard-bristle brush on the carpet, the patch of mud - tracked in from where, only the gods knew - half-eradicated. He put on his best face before he turned.

“Greetings, honoured guest.”

“Yeah, cut the act, the stream’s on loop.” The guest slapped the pic-drone, which sat lifeless on the desk. “Where’s the vepka?”

“Vepka, honoured guest?” Mr Sykes’ smile had never felt so strained.

“The minibar. My room. There’s no vepka. I paid for Premium Service.” Slaps on the desk to stress the words. “What kind of ‘premium’ doesn’t cover vepka?”

“Honoured guest, I’m afraid vepka is prohibited in the Three-Part Empire.” Vindictiveness lessened the strain. “It pollutes the body and character.”

“I don’t give a rat’s rear end about the empire,” the guest snapped. “I’m not in the empire.”

“Oh, but you are,” Mr Sykes said. He couldn’t help a little quavering glee enter his voice. “As I said when you arrived, you stand on Imperial soil. Within these walls, Imperial law still rules.”

He stamped his foot, bringing his arm to a crisp salute. “The Empire lives here,” he said, “and you are our honoured guest.”

The guest stared at him for several long seconds before bursting out laughing. The cords around their neck danced. Mr Sykes stayed very still and his smile didn’t move an inch.

“Oh man, you’re serious!” The guest fumbled for the pic-drone. “Wait, wait, get ready to say that again - chat’s gonna love this!”


Mr Sykes watched as the guest kicked their way, laughing, through the swathes of dust that had accumulated in the farther reaches of the lobby. When they were done - and the pic-drone settled on their shoulder once more, camera dim - they trudged back onto the path between the lift and the reception desk, tracking dust onto the carpet.

The edge had begun to fray again. Mr Sykes’ eye twitched. Perhaps he could sear the edges - but no, it was all natural thread. None of that modern poly-whatever rubbish.

“Honoured guest,” he said, as the guest trudged past, “we must ask that you keep the noise to a minimum. For the other guests, you understand.”

“Excuse me?” The guest grinned, stopped in their tracks. “What other guests?” They gestured around the tomb of the lobby.

All other guests. Prospective, present - and of course, past.” Mr Sykes smiled. “Please be respectful of the history here.”

“The his- bro, where are you from?” The grin hardened. “We kicked your lot out in ‘63 - that’s history.”

“The Empire wisely consolidated its borders.” Mr Sykes drew himself up to his full height, running one finger unconsciously along the braids around his neck. “And for your information, I was born right here, in this very hotel.” He met the guest’s eye with a steely glare.

The guest’s eyes lit up with wicked fire. For a few seconds, their mouth moved silently. Then, they fiddled with the pic-drone and it hummed into life, surveying the scene.

“Got the bombshell of all bombshells for you, chat!” The guest never took their eyes off of Mr Sykes. “Breaking news on the sea-imp stream - our boy here isn’t even a real imp!”

A sharp intake of breath. Mr Sykes was distantly aware that his hands had balled into fists.

“Bet bro’s never even seen the empire!” The guest cackled and pounded a fist on the desk.

I AM AN IMPERIAL CITIZEN,” Mr Sykes roared. “I was born on imperial soil! I wear the deeds of my fathers! I will not be mocked in my home by … by … ”

The pic-drone stared. Mr Sykes was hazy on such things but even he knew that the infernal devices could broadcast to hundreds - no, thousands! - of people. Watching all around the world. Watching in the Empire.

Watching him. Watching the Empire, again, at long last.

“Honoured guest.” The words burned his tongue. He dipped his head, feeling the braids around his neck dip too. “I bid you forgive me for my … fervour.”

“Haha, check it out, chat!”

The guest’s head dropped into Mr Sykes’ vision, voice barely a whisper. “Bow lower for the stream.”

Mr Sykes’ head dropped until all he could see was the carpet. He could hear the guest - hear him hooting and laughing as the pic-drone whirred around them but all he could see was the blur of the carpet. Faded. Stained. Memory told him there was a pattern there, somewhere.

All he had to do was stare at the carpet until the guest left.

But then his fathers’ braids swung into view and Mr Sykes saw himself as the world saw him, through the eye of the pic-drone. He saw himself straighten to a military alert. He saw himself march out from behind the desk and grab a fistful of fake braids, saw the plastic nearly snap as he swung down with the weight of history.

Saw skull hit desk. Saw head hit floor.

Mr Sykes retreated smartly to his customary position behind the reception desk. He smoothed the crease in his sleeve and tutted at the new bloodstain on the carpet. As the pic-drone whirled around him, he stood tall. Proud. Imperious.

Let the world watch him.


Mr Sykes pulled at a stray thread on his jumpsuit and dropped it to the floor with a sniff.

When the local police had arrived, he had greeted them with dignity, as honoured guests. He had let them escort him away, head held high, safe in the knowledge that Imperial soil meant Imperial law.

Extradition. He was finally going home.

He noted now the four strong walls with an approving nod. The concrete floor was free of dust and the windows - though small - gave a clear view of the yard outside, despite the bars. He had a small writing desk and a neatly-made bed and they had even let him keep his fathers’ braids.

His empire, at long last.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

In, guidebook.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

The City
695 / 1,500 words (Guidebook)

Welcome to the city of tomorrow!

Whether you’re looking to escape the crowds or reconnect with the past, the City is our stand-out pick for relocation this summer. Get your blood pumping in this urban jungle and turn ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’ with our latest travel guide.

World-leading Architecture

At over 60 habitable floors tall, the Riverview Tower may well be the tallest building in the world! If you’ve got the legs then it’s got the stairs to take you up into the clouds and give you the view of a lifetime, taking in the entire old tech district in one beautiful panorama! Eagle-eyed visitors may even see the sea on clearer days, which local custom says brings good luck for the harvest season ahead!

But why settle for just one wonder? Visitors from the east will get to travel over the last iron bridge, one of the oldest known structures still in operation! Just make sure to plan your visit ahead of time, especially in the winter months - the gates close at nightfall!

Editor’s Tip: the bridge toll is only payable in tinned goods and the traders on nearby streets take full advantage of that fact. Travel two or three streets out and you’ll find much better exchange rates.

Timeless Culture

When we say ‘the City’, you think ‘the nightlife’!

Whether it’s the seafront sculpture park or the music of the City’s many saloons, there’s something to spark old memories in just about anyone! Or, if you’re looking for a little thrill, take a tour of the flooded subway lines and experience a world out of time, virtually untouched by the years!

Editor’s Tip: avoid offers of private guides and ‘secret tours’ and stick to City Council-run ventures. If in doubt, stay out!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to the City without taking in the theatre! Performances are held nightly at the city library (twice nightly in the winter months) and cover over two centuries of written history, with new tales being restored every day! Come for the Clancy; stay for the Austen.

Editor’s Tip: the reading list changes yearly, so make sure to check ahead of time what stories are still being performed. Donations and apprentices are always welcome.


Struggling to nurture your spiritual side? Finding the toils of daily life leave you little time to think about what comes next? For years, the City has been home to the world-famous road hermetics and now their timeless wisdom can be yours.

DISCOVER the ever-shifting stylites, hand-woven and attached to the City’s many streetlights and signposts! LISTEN to the hermetics’ teachings on sin, the Doom That Came and the Doom To Come! FIND yourself again!

Editor’s Tip: watch out for pickpockets when attending lectures.

Abundant Food

Fill up your bellies and fill up your bags! The City’s culinary tradition is the envy of the world and rightly so: where else can you get fresh greens year-round? The traveller on a budget will find countless soup kitchens and food stands, while those of a more sophisticated palate will want to pay a visit to the Steakhouse for a chance at some 100% pure beef. There’s no shortage of food in the City.

There is no shortage.

Editor’s Tip: avoid the seafood and unboiled water.


For those visitors who can’t help but fall in love with the City, you’re in luck! Between rebuilding projects and the farms, there’s always an opening for a strong set of hands. If you’ve got experience in animal husbandry, our farms will make you an offer you just can’t refuse!

With dozens joining the City every year, it’s no wonder that the CCLB voted the City no.1 on its list of places to live five years in a row! Once you arrive, you’ll never want to leave. Many never do!

Editor’s Tip: bring your friends and family! Bring your village!

The City of Tomorrow: We’ll see you real soon!

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Instructions: read twice in each town, once at noon and once at dusk. If anyone can scribe, let them make a copy. Remember, there is no shortage in the City.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

I'll help judge.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Week 551 Crits

Violet Sky - Mermaid

The opening paragraph jumps us in nice and quick but the focus is a bit muddy - we start on the rich girl, sure, but then we pan out to crowds and the state. Then, with a jerk, we’re dragged back in to focus on the PoV character.

Minor pedantic point - I’d separate out the text of the note. It blends into the preceding text, particularly as you’re starting the two sentences almost identically: “I read the note …” -> “I saw you …”.

I like your ending. It ties back into the opening metaphor of the mermaid and recontextualizes it in a very satisfying way. I think it would have been a bit stronger if you’d built up to the ending a bit more, though. As it is, the tension rises very slowly - Jack doesn’t actually do that much more, even if he is getting a bit obsessed - and the final jump to the body in the bathtub is a bit too sudden. Would this have worked better if there was something I could look back on later as a reason that Jack should have doubted Olive? Maybe.

That line about the bathtub shouldn’t be hidden in the middle of a paragraph like that. There’s definitely a time and a place for hiding a shocking revelation in a larger body of text but it’s generally where you want the reader to almost miss it, in the same way that the character might almost miss it. Being confronted, front and centre, with a dead body up close isn’t that scenario. You could have done nothing more than separate it out onto a line by itself and it would have been stronger.

A couple of lines of dialogue could do with clearer attribution - like the penultimate “Y-you told me to” - and there a few rough edges that dragged me out of the moment (ironically, “just then” did it for me - the preceding dialogue already had me in the immediate moment and going “just then” was jarring). Other than that, good work.

Slightly Lions - A Tale of Two Guineas

Given that this is a piratical yarn, I’m going to plunder a metaphor from you: your story is too low in the water. There’s too much going on - to say nothing of three separate viewpoints, which is a lot for 1,400 words - for the story to get very far. There’s not really enough time to develop the four separate scenes - high seas, judge’s chambers, docks, streets - into a coherent whole.

We get some good characterisation out of our three viewpoint characters - Captain, Judge, Factor - and you do a good job of making it clear that they’ve got inner worlds, got schemes and plans and thoughts going on, but it’s all at such a distance. Forgoing names for titles is a fair choice but it limits intimacy. You tell us that the Captain is a competent pirate and you show him as a decent man, in his own way, but it’s not really enough for me to care about him or whether he lives or dies.

What feels like the main conflict of the story - can the Judge avoid a riot? - is over and done with too quickly. Actually, that can be said for the previous conflict of “can the Captain outrun the Company ships?” too. There’s not enough development - just a rapid-fire “this happened then this happened then this happened”.

Which is a pity because I really like the concept behind your closing paragraph. The Factor’s scheme is revealed a bit too late and explained a bit too clinically (plus a character’s backstory is not needed in the penultimate paragraph - I don’t care about the twist long-lost brothers revelation at this point) but I really like the symmetry of the beginning and ending. “There are many kinds of pirate” is a great final line.

Trim a bit of the fat from the proverbial long pork and you’ve got a solid concept here. I think you’d benefit from stripping it back to one or two points of conflict and really building those out first.

Pham Nuwen - Chinook Run

I like your opening scene. I can’t really say much more about it.

Some of the paragraphs that come after that feel a little unnecessary, save for flavour. I notice you’re right up against the word limit - if you had to, could you do a little trimming here?

That said, you bring in the cave door quickly and my interest is instantly captured. The following paragraphs slowly ratchet up the tension with the mention of the dream and of Frank’s own impatience and by the time the next scene break rolls around and night falls I’m already thinking of The Enigma of Amigara Fault. Not in the “I’d rather be reading …” sense, either.

Oh, involuntary cannibalism. FUN.

The ending felt a bit rushed, if I’m honest. I realise it’s a tough thing to bring that sort of story to a satisfying conclusion but it needed … something. As mentioned above, if you were too pushed for words you could have cut a fair bit of the opener - basically everything until you get to the river could be condensed significantly if needed. It gives a good sense of time but not enough to justify the wordcount.

Horror doesn’t need to be fully explained. There’s a good weight to “well, this hosed up thing happened and now I have to live with it and integrate it into my future life”. The impact just feels a little flat and generic in the final couple of paragraphs. Something specific to drive it home for Norman would really help - going to San Diego because it’s warm is a good start but not enough.

Strange Cares - Seance

I like your prose. You weave in just enough slang to give a flavour to the PoV character. The thing is, a lot of it is just flavour. Nothing between “Joe had been eating …” and “... between cuckoldings” adds anything else to the story. It’s a slightly amusing backstory, sure, but nothing significant that couldn’t be woven in more naturally elsewhere.

And cutting back in with “Anyway, like I said …” really drives that sense of rambling home.

After that, there are a few things you need to keep an eye out for. Repetition is one: “The easiest ones were on the suckers list” is followed only two sentences later by “They were the easy ones” and then “Easy money” shortly thereafter.

And the thing is, even after that, a lot of this is still just setup. Nothing starts to actually happen until Sally arrives on the scene. Could this have been the story of the scam gang and how they got to where they are? Maybe but that didn’t feel like the focus. I checked: that’s over 1,000 words into a 1,948 word story. You could cut and condense and combine so much of that and still retain a clear sense of who the narrator is and what they’re up to.

The actual action? It’s fun! I like Harry Houdini storming into the forefront of things like some pulp PI, fists swinging. There’s some good comedy there! But none of it’s driven by the PoV character, whose role in the story is “hide in a cupboard and then throw up”. I want to read Houdini’s story! I want to read about someone doing something - not a scammer that I have no sympathy for hiding in a cupboard.

Your final line is a solid comedic beat. You can write some drat good sentences. I’m just not sure where the story was.

FlippinPageman - Baudry’s Bandits

You open on two core issues: the repetition of “deep in conversation with a woman in a gold dress covered in rose prints” and the fact that you’ve now got six named characters right off the bat. That’s a lot for a short story like this and it makes me think things are going to get cluttered.

And here come more. To say nothing of named streets, cities, newspapers, stagecoaches … Naming something, particularly in short fiction, denotes it as important - and it seems like everything right now is important so my attention gets dragged everywhere at once.

After that? A slick but very briefly described highjacking. You cut around a bit too much for it to flow smoothly - from the coach passing the cafe, back an hour to the digging of the trenches, forward to the horses tripping and then forward again to some indeterminate alley and point in time.

Ending that first scene “The next day, the real work began” is a great hook but undercut slightly by the fact that nothing so far has particularly felt like work. You note a fair amount of setup but not much effort, if that makes sense?

I’m definitely intrigued by where the plan is going but you keep cutting away to brief backstories and asides. The paragraph about the truth of the current omnibus? Good stuff but it felt like it was meant to be dialogue from the characters.

I like the description of the new coach they’re building/converting but it’s maybe a bit indulgent for the wordcount.

I have no idea what the line about the magnolias is supposed to refer to.

I can’t help but love your ending. A cross-European Volkswagon Type 2 brigade, centuries before its time. It’s roughly executed - I have no idea which of the characters the man with sideburns is, nor the woman, and initially thought Nicollette was one of the gang that I’d just forgotten - but it’s a great concept. The problem is, it feels like your story gets started only in the epilogue.

Rohan - Knowing Your Place

I’m reading and reading and have little to say except that “Vestigial cannons punctuate the bluestone above, shoring up the town’s military significance like Howcroft’s false leg.” is a great sentence/simile.

And then I read the rest straight through. “Dense as the rest of him.” Goddamn.

Your dialogue is quick and sharp. Your characters are vivid. Could you have trimmed some of the opening down a bit? Perhaps. Seems a very petty thing to point out at this point, though.

If I had to offer more substantive criticism - and I really ought to try - I’d say that it’s a fairly safe story. You can see from fairly early on that the women are going to want to get revenge and fairly reliably assume that they’ll get it. I’d have liked to see a little more.

Bad Seafood - Jewels in the Dark

I had to re-read the opening a couple of times to pick up that Gabriella was impersonating her brother Nico. It made things a little bit confusing until that point.

After that it was smooth sailing. You do a good job of dropping in things like the image of Nico bleeding out on the couch, or all the little details around Murdock that make him seem dangerous. The latter, in particular, does a fantastic job of raising the tension and we get a clear picture of what Gabriella has set out to do - and the dangers she faces - without having to state them outright.

There are a couple of lines that I found a bit jarring - the sudden tense switch in “A piercing sensation was worming through her stomach”, for example - but otherwise it’s all pretty seamless.

Strangely, the thing I keep coming back to is that a random guard shoots Gabriella. It doesn’t feel wrong, as such, just a little bit convenient - as though you know she’s got the drop on Murdock and Casper and you still need her to be bleeding out at the end. Still, that little detail by no means detracts from the story.

Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

I am judge three.


Mar 20, 2008

Said little bitch, you can't fuck with me if you wanted to
These expensive
These is red bottoms
These is bloody shoes

Thunderdome - Week 553 - Crits

FlippinPageman - Windfall

You’ve got an interesting opener. I like the initial image I have of Reggie and Donna; two little beetle bugs on a farm.

The mystery of the narrator is a bit awkward; on the one hand, you drop these tantalising hints that there’s something going on but at the same time I found the Farmlings more interesting. When you bring in Rodney, it raises more questions (like what he’s been doing for the months that have passed) but it doesn’t feel very connected to what’s going on so far. It feels more like you had two story ideas that don’t fit very well and the result is this isolated farmhouse that just raises even more questions about the nebulous world it sits within.

I don’t need there to be payoff or some long explanation of who built the Farmlings or why - but the tone of the story felt like a steady raising of questions in different directions before a final, sudden pivot to “And they all lived happily ever after”. It wasn’t particularly satisfying, I’m afraid.

Slightly Lions - The Green Zone

Your opening paragraph is very dense in adjectives, proper nouns and long, run-on sentences. In general, this is some classic Dune-style scifi worldbuilding. It’s a lot to take in and I had to read it a few times to really get into it. That said, I really like the world you’ve built! It’s lush, it’s fun - it’s got a lot of potential.

The problem I have is that not much actually happens. There’s no real story until Hayes finds the private security guards and everything after that happens very quickly. If you had more words I’m sure you could flesh that out into something more interesting but within this word limit you’ve had to sacrifice that. Ultimately, I wanted a story set in this world and all I got was the world.

Pham Nuwen - In the Oak-Lot

The idea of a fae protector of a rural household is an old one but you’ve executed it well. Hog-goblin is a nice turn of phrase and really, I delight in the idea of Big Chungus absolutely destroying the raiders. It made me wonder how the sheep-rustling scene in Babe could have gone very differently. Your scene-setting and characterisation is clear and efficient and you struck a very fine balance with the hog-goblin’s dialogue: archaic and distinct without being gimmicky or overblown.

It’s a good story, you know?

derp - lamb

The formatting gimmick made this harder to read. Truth be told, I’d struggle to decipher much of the content of your story due to the structure, run-on sentences and other such niceties. None of that should come as any surprise to you, because that clearly seems to be what you were going for - I’m just concerned you may have taken it a touch too far. I’ve gone back and forth on this and I genuinely don’t know.

But I can’t deny that it works. You have built an incredibly strong voice for your main character into the story, one that puts them instantly at odds with the setting and other characters. I suppose the question would be whether you needed this gimmick to do that; “fix” the formatting and I think you still get a character with an incredibly cold, logical, ordered and somewhat neurotic mindset and voice. The formatting heightens that, sure, but I’m not sure it added anything new on top - certainly nothing that outweighed the difficulties it produces for the reader.

rohan - Sharing Economy

You do a very good job of capturing a sense of place and voice; it’s got that early-morning, still-dark, coffee-in-a-styrofoam-cup vibe that adds a lot of authenticity. It feels lived and real and some of the characters - like the old guy with the muttoncard joke - ring very true.

I guess my issue would be that it seems like the story you wanted to tell is hidden behind all of that. There are lines hinting at something greater - the one about the parents’ mid-life crisis, for example - but I couldn’t really tell you what. It’s a nice, well observed scene but there’s not much more there.

Chairchucker - Leave the Edges

I’ll be honest, Tom is such a one-note stereotype that it’s off-putting and overshadows anything else that might be there. I know that people like this exist but the end result just feels like it should end with “and that apple farmer’s name? Albert Einstein”. There’s nothing else there.

Thranguy - The First Bite

I like the idea of genetically modified apples based after memories or emotions, but I wish you’d done more with it. The actual story - the one that got away, the fateful first love - is pretty thin and bits of it - e.g. what the trackers will/won’t allow - are confusing.

I like the blending of the old and the new that seems to take place on multiple levels - apple breeding and genetic manipulation, the almost folklore-ish family and cyberware - and I’d have liked to see that explored a bit more.

Windwardaway - Prey

I like the idea of this being from a bug’s PoV. It’s pretty barebones, though.

One thing I noticed is that there’s an unusually scientific (academic? educated?) tone of voice for what is, ultimately, a bug. References to their own “bright green colouration” or “horrid avian”, for example, feel out of place. I’m not saying you have to reduce everything down to impressions of shape and colour just because of your choice of point of view character but I’d really like to have seen you make use of the unusual main character. As it is, it reads more like the adventures of a 2-inch tall biology teacher (which I would, admittedly, read).

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