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Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


in with goblin


Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Market Goblin
1133 words
prompt : "lonely goblin"

The Goblin woke up almost at noon, in no hurry. In the last two days he had made no sale, but today, he felt, would be a good day, and he would certainly make one. He put on his long tattered socks and one of his dirty long-nailed toes slipped through a hole in the fabric. He put on his shabby tunic and muddy boots, and his red cap with a frayed feather in it. And he left his hovel with his wares in a big bag, whistling and bouncing through the forest.

He found a great spot almost at once, a place where he’d never been, by an overgrown path. Not that the exact place mattered ; the forest would bring any customer to him. Someone would come, a lost orphan or an errant knight. The forest always brought them to him.

He displayed his wares on a huge stump, making sure they were all visible : potions of every kind, warm like flesh to the touch ; gloves your loved one would covet ; dizzying fruits, enormous garish mushrooms ; a glass sword to kill everything and yourself ; drums made of strange skin, flutes made of cat bones ; perfumes as sweet as deliverance ; rings lined like rows of teeth on a piece of stained felt. Anything could be yours, or anyone’s, for a small and cruel price. He giggled and rubbed his gnarled hands at the thought, and not just because he had to make a sale that day, but for the pleasure it would give him.

For now the lights through the branches covered the world, heavy and punishing; he retreated beneath the roots of a giant dead oak, keeping an eye on the path and on his wares. He feasted on grubs and worms and slugs, burping with delight in the warm shade.

Soon, just as he had expected, someone came. He was a merchant too, a human merchant on a horse, with a heavy coat and a large bag that must have held his own wares. He asked for directions; the goblin could not sell that, but he could sell the other merchant a map of roads never trodden before, and a traveling cloak under which he would never feel cold again. He showed him those and every other article of his, but the man was confused and then afraid. He asked many questions and then questioned their answers and then left.
“You’ll be back!” the goblin cried, more forcefully than he would have the day before. Not that he should worry: the day was still long. He’d make his sale.

As afternoon progressed and the light dimmed, he climbed the dead oak with graceless agility, then watched from the fronds if anyone else was coming. A magpie set on the branch by him.
“Is that your third day without a sale?” it asked.
“Go away!” the goblin shouted.

He scuttled down and the bird followed.
“Three days without a sale and the third one is almost over!”
“It’s not!”
“Just so you know, there are hunters right downhill, by the green oxbow.”
“Who cares?”

The goblin threw stones at the bird, which flew away in a luminous cackle.

The goblin was not worried, but unsettled a little, and he crept beneath the roots again, in the shade that was full of bones and hair and dead people’s laughs. He gorged on that too and felt better.

Afternoon progressed, and still no one came. Even when the air grew fresh, no traveler hurried by an overgrown shortcut, no shepherd boy came looking for a stray, no squire’s daughter strolled by the fragrant woods’ edge.

The normal way of things was that buyers came to him, brought by the twisting paths of the forest. But when the shadows grew long, the goblin skulked toward the hunters. There were three of them, two men and a small woman, setting camp by the oxbow. They had dressed and hung a deer, and the smell of blood made him slobber as he entreated them to come and see his sweet and powerful wares.

The men would not listen ; they cursed him and threw stones at him, as he had at the bird. But the woman looked silently whither he retreated, and later the forest brought her to him, eager, hesitant. He showed her all his wares, and glanced at the sun that now grazed the treetops. That might be his last chance to make a sale.
“You can have any two trinkets for the price of one,” he offered; and that one would be her!
But she hesitated still, bit her lips and scratched her hair.
“I just want something else,” she said.
“What?” the goblin cried out in anguish, running his gnarled hands all over his wares displayed on the stump. “Nothing here you like?”

His loud voice had startled her. She looked about to cry.
“No,” she said, ”I want something else than…” she gestured at the world around them. “Than it all.”

He smiled and of course he had what she wanted. From among the vials he took a tiny one with a large wax seal over the stopper. She knew what it was already, he did not need to lie.
“It tastes sweet,” he promised.

She held it for a moment and almost took it.
“I just need a little courage,” she whimpered.
But goblins don’t have courage, for sale or otherwise.

They were both sorry; she put it back on the stump, very fast, and ran away. He shouted impotently after her. She could take it for later, or for one of her friends! He beat his ugly head in despair.

Now the sun was red and low, so low the shadows spread and threatened to swallow him. He could hear the magpie mocking him, close and invisible among the dark swaying branches. It was the end of the third day and he had made no sale.

As the last of the red light faded, he called for anyone, anyone to come buy his wonders and poisons. His ugly entreaties resounded all through the forest, and the colliers in their cabins covered their children’s ears and their own. But it was all in vain; the goblin was alone when the forest took him.

Then there were no more goblins, as he had been the lonely last of them. In the days before he was forgotten, some still thought they saw him dancing through the undergrowth, always silent, but they were wrong. He had become the shadow beneath the roots and the funk of late summer nights, and the whispered laugh of the wind the branches that scares the little children.

Which goes to show you must always apply yourself, and not waste time, or you will die like the goblin.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


I'm taking Dying Earth and Legal.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


The Technicality
999 words
Dying Earth x Legal

Twelve approximately human cadavers were slumbering in a monumental cavern, hanged in two rows to the roots of colossal dead trees above, dreaming of long-forgotten ages, when someone spilled powerful blood on the altar before them. Death paid for life, momentarily. The Jury awoke and looked with empty eye sockets at the two parties before them.

“Who goes there?” asked the First Juror. Two petitioners stood by the altar.

“I am Polymachaeroplagides, the Thrice-Hunted” said a splendid, tall, muscular man with the mien of a warrior and the tired eyes of a scholar, who held a candle high and looked without fear at the Jury. He wore an embroidered tunic, a battered chainmail vest, and a bright red pelt as a cloak. Scars old and new covered his copper skin, and he sported a proud mane of blonde hair.

“I am Paikan, “ said a nightmarish blend of machine parts and arthropodic segments, surmounted by a camel-like head. Boiling blood dripped from one of her ten pointy legs; evidently it was her who had slain on the altar the last Bomerian dragon, a wretched, stunted, deformed creature.

“We come here to petition the Hanged Jury to adjudicate the matter between us, according to Law and Precedent,” she added, and the man confirmed.

“The Jury accepts,” said the First Juror. The others started to chatter ominously. “Understand our decision is final and binding. No appeal. Our power destroyed the world, it might just as easily destroy you both. Since you traveled all the way here, and together at that, we assume you have already considered fighting it out and decided against it, so no violence in the court. Please state your case.”
“Our dispute regards the ownership of the Disk of Niourk, a powerful artifact that allows one to escape this doomed world. Each of us holds half of it, and claims the other half.”
“Please put both halves on the altar, without assembling them.”

Polymachaeroplagides reached under his fur cloak, pushed the corpse of the last Bomerian dragon awkwardly out of the way and put on the altar a semi-circular object covered in minuscule inscriptions, then stepped back. Paikan in turn bent over and retched a very similar object. Both pieces were evidently of the same make and material, and would assemble to form a disk with a square-shaped hole in the middle.

“Very well. You may now present your claims.”

Even as he asked the parties to speak, the other jurors never ceased their muttering among themselves, which took Polymachaeroplagides aback, but not Paikan, who immediately answered :
“Before that I would like to present a motion for summary judgment. As a descendant of the lost race of Gam, my adversary is forbidden by the Curse of Helgvor to journey to other worlds.”
“The Curse was overturned by the ritual duel of Glaude the Ill-Born v Cleofas.”
“That duel made use of inappropriate rites.”
“Bellerophon v the Universe established that appropriate rites when either duellist is of demonic nature.”
“That case has been overturned. Melgo the Resourceful v the Dread Malefarch Charonyx.”
“Wait,” Polymachaeroplagides interrupted, “You are the Dread Malefarch Charonyx!”
“I was. As sometimes happens in legal matters, I am now using the same argument to which I succumbed in an earlier case.”
“I read all about this case, you should have won but… You threw your own case on a technicality just to establish a precedent and use it here, decades later! Who does that?”
“Be that as it may, the ruling stands. It has never been overturned in any earthly or infernal court.”

Polymachaeroplagides wavered, but, to his credit, soon found a retort:
“Even so, this case is strictly about ownership of the Disk, and not the use I may or may not make of it, which my adversary cannot prove anyway. Who’s to say, before the fact, I will use the Disk to journey between worlds? I may sell it for a hefty sum to the right buyer. I may use it as a paperweight. I may power minor sorceries with the wafts of aether it exsudes.”
“That’s weak, Polymachaeroplagides. The Anaximandrian doctrine holds that for artifacts older than a aeon, the owner is presumed to utilize their primary power.”
“That’s just doctrine, not settled law.”
“Again, weak.”

The First Juror looked at Polymachaeroplagides and something like amusement trembled on his decomposed lips.
“Do you have another argument for the Jury?”
“I have no other argument to present at this time.”

“Then we find that the Curse applies, and Polymachaeroplagides cannot lay claim to the artifact. We rule in favor of Paikan, who can now take possession of the Disk.”
Paikan stepped eagerly to the altar and assembled the Disk with the pincers at the end of her second pair of legs. A cold wind blew from nowhere, and reality itself seemed to waver around her. She turned to her adversary.
“You have been a worthy opponent over the years, Polymachaeroplagides. I would take you with me if I could.” And without waiting for an answer, she disappeared.

The man, who had watched it impassibly, then said in a lapidary tone : “The Jury has ruled and I have abided by its judgment. Farewell.”

He turned to leave, but before he could, the head juror said: “Hold on. You know that the Curse of Helgvor did not apply to this case, right?”
“Certainly. The Disk of Niourk allows one to escape this doomed world, it is true… But not to enter another one, without some other device to navigate the multiverse. So there is no journey to other worlds. Paikan is now trapped in the void. In her eagerness to use the Disk, I knew she would only doom herself.”
“But if you’d just given your half to her…”
“...She would have sensed the trap and thought twice about it.”
“So there you came, and threw your own case on a technicality.”

And on these words, Polymachaeroplagides left the Hanged Jury to its renewed slumber.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Week 572 : Family saga, short form

Give me a story involving three generations (at least) of the same family. 1000 words brought me luck, so that's what you get too.

The deadline for registering is 21/07 (this Friday), 23:59 CET.
The deadline for posting is 23/07 (this Sunday), 23:59 CET.

You can ask for a flash rule and I'll give you the relationship between the generations.

May the best story win.

I would also like some co-judges.

The ambitious scions :
beep-beep car is go
Fat Jesus
Bad Seafood
Green Wing

The judgemental elders :
Doctor Zero

Kuiperdolin fucked around with this message at 23:02 on Jul 21, 2023

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Since it came up on the Discord, You can ask for a flash rule and I'll give you the relationship between the generations.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Signups closed.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Two hour warning.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


OK, time's up. Thanks for playing.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Results for week 572 : Family saga, short form

Everyone was on-topic this week, maybe too on-topic as I was hoping to see a couple story stretch the concept of family but you all played it pretty safe on that count at least.

Doctor Zero and I debated your fates but it was a rather placid debate as we found ourselves mostly in agreement. In particular, we both agreed that the crown should go to :
Green Wing, for Duty Visit, a cruel story with horrible characters and snappy execution.

Honorable mentions go to:
Chairchucker, for Firstborn Skater, a cool but slight story
Acting Power, for Postcognition, a rather moving tale

We decided not to award DMs or loss even though it was on the table.
The Cut of your Jib gets redeemed and unfortunately rohan gets a failure.

Congratulations Green Wing and thanks Doctor Zero for your help.
Crits coming soon.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Crits for week 572 : Family saga, short form

Done in judgemode except for the last one

Fat Jesus, The Importance of Women
A distinctive voice, not sure how I feel about it, but it’s distinctive. The story’s a bit slight but again, the ambiance is there. Sunny old-fashioned ranchmen stories, nothing new under the blazing sun but it works.

Acting Power, Postcognition
Sad story. The three object conceit gives it structure, and a tale-like quality. The gift feels ambiguous and unsettling, a little bit great and a little but terrible. That’s a lot of dialogue, but it flows well. Turning you back on your last moments with Dad very much feels like a 12 year old's objectively terrible but understandable decision. The characters get distinctive voices and the last line stings while following logically from what precedes.

beep-beep car is a go, Family Meeting
Second paragraph repeats 'gown' too much (and spells it ‘grown’ at one point). Too much repetition to my taste in general. I’m not a fan of the choppy style, still it works for conveying what you want to convey. The imagery of sleeping ancestors is cool. Sleeping queens under the mountain, SF-style, I could go for that. I liked the reveal (?) that Purslane was just five, hope It’s intentional. The first half should probably be cut or at least pruned. The second half, too, though not as much. The story ends when it really picks up. This reads less like a short story in its own right and more like the first chapter of a novel I’m not quite sure I want to read.

Chairchucker, Firstborn Skater
This silly romp moves and reads effortlessly. If I’d been in a bad mood I’d have found the skater artifacts a bit too cute but I’m in a good mood. At least the story and the characters don’t put too fine a point on them, right call. Feels a bit light but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Very straightforward but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. A summertime gulp of very cheap very cloying energy drink.

Bad Seafood, Birthright
It took me two readings to get the conceit, backwards generations whose fortunes wax and wane even as the land develops around them. not sure I would have gotten it at all if I had not known the prompt. Should a TD story assume knowledge of the prompt? I don’t think it should.
Each of the vignettes is well-crafted, with the river providing a through-line. It could stand to be developed a bit more. I like the subversion of inheritance and birthright that often comes with the family saga. A cursed, undeserved, stolen birthright. I do feel the last segment is the weakest, not a great place to finish/start.

Green Wing, Duty Visit
I read this one last and it put me in a grim mood. Nasty tale. Not a bad thing in itself. Evil nasty families are families too, we’re on topic. I’m not a fan of present tense narration in general but I see where it's going there. It felt focused and snappy, even though it’s the same length as the others.

Thranguy, Midway
Generation ship is a logical take on the prompt; mission drift, a logical take on generation ships. The main problem is that I don’t really get what happens. On the one hand apparently the ship’s population is dwindling or not growing as fast as expected. On the other it "looks like plan B”, a bunch of semi-feral kids that outnumbers the previous generation. Where do they come from? Why the shift? I don’t get it.
I enjoyed the blasé tone regarding the situation. Oh, yet another dead civilization sending out its last testament, no one cares. I liked the vagueness of the scourge. The ambiance is better than the story.

The Cut of your Jib, Ceramics are fragile
I did not discuss it with Doctor Zero but I don't see it winning even if it had made the deadline, so you can take dubious comfort in that. I see what it's trying to be, a rambling family story about uncouth countryside types, the kind one of them might tell diegetically, and to be fair it succeeds at being that, but it's not really appealing to me (admittedly, personal taste) and there does not seem to be more to the text, no story beyond the story or greater theme, or I missed them. So it's a little on me that I don't like your basket, but it's on you that you put all your eggs in it.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


drat, I'm in.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


derp posted:

city: Alicante, Spain
book: Strange Hotel, by Eimear McBride

A proof than Mr Hermann was not crazy
1499 words

Don’t ask me to describe Alicante. I have been there seven times in the last two decades, but it was always on the job, and I had no time for sightseeing. At most I could tell you about its airport, a succession of huge, cheap, industrial-looking terminals, always changing and never improving. From there I took a company shuttle to Las Palmas, an all-inclusive resort that catered almost exclusively to German tourists.

The last time I went there was in August 2019, before the COVID crisis that cost many of us their jobs. The hotel was fairly crowded, which pushed its operations to their limits. So it was no wonder that one of the plastic coat hangers in my dresser was broken, and that pastry baskets at the breakfast buffet remained almost empty after ten. Lunch, on the other hand, was beyond reproach, as was the swimming pool. I quickly came to the provisional conclusion that the hotel, as during my previous visits, was a fine establishment and correctly managed, which I would fairly mention in my report. I had only trifling observations to make ; presumably they would be easily fixed later, although I was not involved in that part.

The rest of the week confirmed my good first impression. Meanwhile I was blending with other guests, to gather their opinions. There the crowdedness helped greatly. I would come to the restaurant at rush hour, walk timidly up to a family and ask if they minded me sitting at their table, since all the others were occupied. Of course, of course, I could sit. Even after that I would remain apologetic, insisting that truly there was no place available anywhere. Was it their first sojourn there? Was the resort always so bustling, and what did they think of it?

People praised the place, mostly on aesthetic grounds. The restaurant was on a shaded terrace, which afforded a great view of the rugged hill dominating the city and the pale squat fortress atop it, which we recommended to visit but did not operate. That breathtaking sight was very popular with guests, as was the hearty paella. But this year another subject dominated conversation, and it was the strange behavior of one guest, although, as people would note, he was not harming anybody.

Mr Hermann had already been there one week. He was a sullen sunburnt giant with an enormous head, even in proportion to his stout body, sunken eyes and a florid brown beard. Every night, and oftentimes during the day, he sat at the indoor bar, drinking. Unlike his compatriots, who favored watery German beers or sweet fruity cocktails, he always ordered some sort of schnapps or brandy, which he imbibed with impressive endurance, even for a man of his heft.

As the evening progressed, under the influence of liquor, he got talkative and made, to no one in particular, weird and rambling declarations, the gist of which was that he was an immortal mercenary who had fought in many famous wars ever since antiquity, although he seldom said so directly. Rather, he would loudly but obliquely mention ancient events and people, like a Teutonic comte de Saint-Germain, with perfect aplomb, as someone who did not at all consider such talk bizarre, or even admitted the possibility that someone else might see it as such.

“Even when I rode with El Cid,” he would for example say, “I had never come back here again. And now I can not recognize the place, except for the white mountain. In the days of Hamilcar it was a huddle of terraced tenements some distance away from the port. I dwelt in the barracks, with my long-dead brothers. In the evenings, we sat in the temple gardens and drank sappy wine, toasting to glory and danger and being alive another day! The air smelt of laurels, coriander and burnt flesh.”

That kind of talk attracted attention. Some thought he was doing a bit. Many did not quite understand what he was saying. One guest, this week, happened to be a Classics graduate student, who had come for a relaxing week with his family and a Teubner edition of Polybius in his bag. Other young vacationers convinced him to approach Mr Herrman one night; the millennia-old veteran humored him, even paid for his tangerine rebujito, and talked at length. The next day I happened to sit at the young man’s table as he recounted their conversation.

The man was enthusiastic and facund ; he claimed to have fought in Spain, in Sicily and in Numidia, where white-teethed warriors hunted elephants in foggy primordial forests. But as soon as his new acquaintance had started broaching the subject of the political and strategic situation of that time, of who ruled in Carthage and what cities were allies or enemies to it, Mr Hermann had started to hesitate and mumble, and finally proclaimed that a man who eked a wild and dangerous life by selling his sword could not be expected to keep track of all that, and that he knew no master but the paymaster, no country than the open road, no politics but the eternal clash of arms. Wasn’t it convenient. His descriptions of antiquity, by the student’s reckoning, owed more to Alix and Salammbô, not to mention a copious imagination, than to genuine knowledge.
“I feel a little sad for him,” said his mother.

The student’s judgment, which spread throughout the guests, emboldened a few German patres familias to start more actively making sport of him. After dinner they surrounded him in the bar, and made him talk, encouraging his wildest tales. By then I spent most evenings in the bar too, only drinking virgin cocktails of course, because I was worried that the service was slow, and that not all drinks were available every night. So I witnessed most of it.

One of the mockers, not always the same, would ask questions politely : what weapons did he use, back in the middle ages? And what happened then? Did he meet Don Quixote? The others would at first only exchange looks and surreptitious smirks. But as the evening progressed, and they too drank, the smirks turned to sniggers, then to outright laughs. Something like hunger animated their reddened faces. They drew closer and louder, interrupting him.

Mr Herrman at first did not seem to mind. He would answer every question and then launch in amusing tirades, while guzzling liquor even stronger than the sappy wine he had drunk at Saguntum, after the victory, in a dead Gaul’s helmet. Yet sometimes he grew frighteningly quiet. His arms as thick as trunks tensed, and his pale sunken eyes blurred. He would try to get up and leave, but they entreated him to stay, sorry if something they had said had come across wrong. Soon Mr Hermann was rambling again.

Wiser men, maybe, would have considered they had had their fun, and dropped the matter. Indeed their wives generally reproved their behavior.
“We’re just joking around,” they would say. “Nobody’s forcing him to talk.”
At lunch they would recapitulate his stories, underlining the best parts of it, sometimes with additions, stopping only to look at Mr Hermann, alone and oblivious, over their shoulder. He ate steak and mussels inelegantly.

On Saturday night, the mockers got so vicious that the barman slipped away and soon the night manager appeared, and announced that unfortunately the bar had to close early for inventory.
“Okay, okay,” they said, and they withdrew a little, but they did not leave the bar, hanging around, fussing with their satchels, looking at Mr Herrman who now appeared more tired and melancholic than boisterous. By the time they walked away, he had rested his enormous head on the table and snored.

I could say nothing, of course. It was important that I remained incognito, and besides the guests would not have appreciated learning of my profession. Many of them saved yearlong to afford their one or two weeks in the sun. To learn that I saw that vacation as a job, that my own idea of a vacation was to sleep night after night in my own bed and to drink middle-shelf beer in front of the television, would have made them aghast. So I could not tell anybody that I, in fact, knew Mr Herrman well.

He was one of our better clients, and I had sighted him again and again over the years. In Deauville and Biarritz he would tell people he had fought on both sides of the Hundred Years War, on Antigua he would sip rum and regale tourists with tales of piracy ; in Balaclava he boasted of Cossack adventures ; in Naples he had been a famous gladiator. All these sojourns, and the attending bar tabs, must have added to a considerable cost ; and so, whether from the plunder of centuries, or any other reason, he was rich enough to be eccentric and not crazy.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Lol, in.

Bordeaux's not just wine, eat some cannelés from a good shop.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Brand new ancestral tradition
741 words

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Grandpa, do you remember that, a story of a fay living in a water and a knight, from when you were young? I think they made it up after they filled the reservoir, and now they pretend it’s from the Middle Ages.”
“No, I don’t think so, I don't remember that.”
He sat on the stone, one buttock on the knight and the other on the fay, catching his breath. He looked at the lake, trying to see beyond it, under it. He closed his eyes to see better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome



Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


The greatest tosser in all Europe…

1198 words

Maybe in the whole world. This is the tale of Benedikt Angenardt, his rise from village tosser to tossing champion of Saxony, and how it ended.

He was the eighth child of a poor knight, who paid taxes and rent in kind to the bishop of Eichstätt, and he grew up in a fortified farm everyone called The Castle. As a child he heard tales, violent and maybe fake, of his ancestors’ valiance in the Crusades, of Bavarian tourneys and Tuscan battles. His brothers and he wore clods and helped with the harvest, fished in the ponds, hunted in the woods and got into scrapes. They were big men around the village.

When he was sixteen  Benedikt and one of his brothers competed at a small fox-tossing contest in Eichstätt, just six pairs tossing three foxes each in the bishop’s gardens. The modest audience was stupefied at how high the brothers tossed their foxes. While most other pairs’ animals, after being tossed, fell nimbly to the ground and quickly escaped into the bushes, the Angenardts tossed theirs so high and violently that all three of them were knocked or crippled upon crashing on the green, and the brothers compounded their success by clubbing them to death with joyful cruelty. The creatures’ agony was described in lurid terms in gazettes as far as Cologne.

The next year he tossed foxes in Ingolstadt and Regensburg, and was the clear winner each time.   In 1749 he competed in Nuremberg, Pilsen, and Bayreuth, where he tossed seven hares and a badger. In 1750 he drew crowds in Prague and Nuremberg again. His impressive exploits were exaggerated further throughout the Empire. A few women fainted just from watching him toss.

By then his brother had started to act more as an impresario, hiring local talent to team up with that promising young tosser. Benedikt’s many triumphs justified the investment. Although he was strong, there were stronger men around, and he was too lazy to practice much. But he had a marvelous instinct for flicking his wrist deftly, at just the right moment, so that the sling would tense suddenly and fling the animal high.

Eventually he caught the eye of Elector Augustus, who, while personally obese and gouty, was trying to recreate the grand tossing contests of his youth, where his father had once demonstrated his own herculean strength by tossing foxes and boars with boisterous ease. Benedikt became the Elector's champion, and his brother was sent home with a slightly generous remittance.

For about two years Benedikt acquitted himself well in the Elector's service, setting several tossing records. Voltaire, whose Prussian master loathed the Elector, immortalized him in a bilious epigram where he made Angenardt rhyme with Renard.

He grew proud and fat, indulging in food and drink, but never much in women. Serious tossers often eschew carnal congress, lest it diminishes their performance. But Benedikt, frankly, did not even think of that. He was just too dull and unimaginative to seek pleasures beyond the absolutely obvious and immediate. Eating, drinking, sleeping late were his true passions.

The one peculiar romance he engaged in was with the landgravine H***, an anemic beauty who never met him, much less attended one of his shows. In fact she despised tossing philosophically, as all forms of violence except tyrannicide. Nevertheless, sensational accounts of Benedikt's tossing in the papers had inflamed her languid imagination. She wrote him two letters, comparing him to a conquering Diomedes, professing admiration for his person (Diomedes of Argos) and abhorrence for his career (Diomedes of Thrace), and finally hinting, much too subtly, that their relation might develop if he abandoned tossing and undertook the short journey to meet her. To each letter she appended some abstruse poetry about the rigors of love.

Benedikt had someone read him the letters, and someone else show him a picture of the landgravine in the Elector's gallery. The tone of this one-sided correspondence transported him with perplexed longing. He dreamt of moonlit strolls with her, of the philosophical scent of her skirts, of her eyes as dark as the blackest paint.

Yet no more came of it before his fateful last tossing.

It was in the Elector's gardens, a magnificent affair amid a whole day of festivities. Benedikt had been paired with the Elector's nephew, a decorated officer, medievally stout. They won almost all the rounds, tossing foxes, badgers, and even lynxes marvelously. Their beasts soared and fell brutally, splattering the gravel with gore, filling the air with the crackings of their bones and their cries of agony. It was splendid entertainment!

Then came the main event. Drums rolled. The other tossers withdrew. Benedikt and his partner pulled on the ends of their wide fabric sling, to remove its folds, and waited. Servants brought a large iron cage, opened it frightfully and ran away. A minute passed. Then a scabby, skinny lion crept out of the cage slowly.

He had been captured months before in the Atlas, and brought to Dresden by cargo ship and then chariot, in a cage covered by an oiled cloth against the rain and cold. For long stretches of time he had refused all food, wasting away amid his own filth. His hair thinned, sores formed where his legs rested on the iron bars. Finally he had developed a cough which nearly killed him, and left him weak and wheezing. The Elector had imagined using that regal, dying beast as a grandiose finale. Nobody before had tossed a lion.

Yet the creature only crept forward briefly, then lay on the gravel and would not budge. His ribs were apparent, his mane matted and gray, his eyes dull. Not even anger or hope of escape moved him anymore.

After a while a game warden appeared with a bleeding chicken, to bait him toward the tossers. The lion growled feebly and limped forward, looking as broken as if he had already suffered a Bellerophonic fall. When he had stepped fully on the sling, Benedikt and the other man pulled fast and tossed him into the air. The lion fell and died, to little applause. Embarrassed nobility shuffled away to the banquet and fireworks.

It needed not be the end of the tosser's career. After all, he had played his own role well. But the poor knight's son looked at the dead lion for a long time. When servants came to dispose of the body, he just walked away, and that was it. He left the court and then the city. Nobody stopped him, or even noticed for a few days.

Augustus, the Elector, was growing old, sickly, and disinterested in tossing. Soon the Seven Year War took his mind off it altogether.

Some say Benedikt rejoined the landgravine, although I do not believe him subtle enough to become a secret lover. Some say he went back to his father's estate, where the remnants of his earnings delayed his family's ruin by a generation. One thing is certain, and easy to confirm: he never tossed again, and his exploits remained unequaled. Fox tossing, anyway, entered a period of decline throughout Europe, and few young people today enjoy the story of a good tosser.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


In, vibe and problem please.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Vibe: Susumu Hirasawa: The Girl In Byakkoya; Problem: Something vital has broken

The Confession of Someone Who Is not a Glamoured Heroic Repugnant Alien Monster
2545 words

Last month I put up our house for sale. It had been my parents’ before, and I grew up in it, but now I sought the comparative anonymity of the big city. I told the realtor to screen unserious customers, but many came to visit with no intention to buy, just to gawk at where I lived. Some opened our drawers to look at my folded underwear. I told my wife we could get separate apartments in the city, if she preferred. “It’s your decision,” she answered. She was repelled by me but too grateful to do anything about it, like all the other islanders.

Doing the right thing is a drag, and in my case the right thing was not even much, it was in fact the least I could do, and yet enough to scramble my life. Imagine if I was an actual hero.

The tempest hit us with little warning, in the middle of the night. By dawn both bridges to the mainland had been swept away, the woods were strewn with fallen trees and two houses had collapsed. Dr Ferrat, tending to the seven wounded with the island veterinarian for a nurse, was soon overwhelmed. And then water stopped pouring from the faucets : the water plant was kaput too. Unceasing wind swept the island, so strong it was a struggle to walk from house to house.

Radios still worked; the alderman called for help. We had no water, scarcely any food, several dying, no medical equipment to speak of, no surgeon. Shortly after noon supplies reached the other side, but no further. The bridges were gone. The tempest had not abated, and the much-vaunted aircraft could not so much as take off. One coast guard cutter made a courageous attempt to cross, and almost capsized before it even left the harbor. There was nothing to do but wait. The supplies remained on the jetty, under a tarpaulin, ready to load immediately. But the forecast now said the tempest might last days, or even more.

In the afternoon the sky was almost as black as at night, roaring and wailing. We painstakingly dragged tubs and barrels outside, weighed down with stones lest the winds blew them away, so that if it rained we would have fresh water at least. We inventoried food, telling ourselves there would be enough, and candles. We shared them with neighbors.

Dusk came almost unnoticed. Not so the first death. When Dr Ferrat lost his second patient he shook and stopped talking. He walked from bed to bed, hunched, haggard, fidgeted with the charts, wrote whole pages of useless notes, took pulses and temperatures again and again and again and again. The veterinarian failed to convince him to get to bed himself.

There was nothing to do but wait, and pray, and sleep. Then a pounding on our door woke us into a nightmare. Another house nearby had collapsed, and people were looking through the rubble in hope of finding people alive. I took a heavy coat and joined them. As I trudged through the darkness and the gale, hunched, I noticed it still wasn’t raining, and the ground was dry. We hardly had enough water for tomorrow.

Soon the alderman rejoined us, with more volunteers. Someone told him we should gather people in the most sturdy houses.
“I don’t know, he said… I would have thought this one was the most sturdy of all.”
Just at the moment we dug out the woman under the rubble, unconscious. Some carried her to the doctor, the rest of us kept searching. And then the monster appeared.

When we noticed it it was already above us, in the intermittent glow of lightning, a large, knotted mass of flesh and cartilage, dripping with oily humors that befouled us and the ground. It rose on heavy flapping wings, edged with sickly fire, and dragged under itself ropy limbs and huge deformed hands. When he reached the exposed shore, winds buffeted him so hard it started to sway like a ship in peril, but it flew on over the foaming sound. From time to time the tempest tore away one of its hideous wings, and another grew in some strange unpredictable place.

Fear at first had frozen us in place, rather than scattered us, and then when it moved away we kept watching, fascinated. By the time it reached the harbor on the opposite shore we could barely make out the appalling glow that limned its gross manifold flesh. What happened there we found out only later. In front of the gasping coastguard it seized in its unearthly limbs the crates on the jetty, and then extended a grotesque, immense, dirty hand forward, palm up. It was big enough for a man. In America maybe the seamen would have shot at the creature in panic. But our sailors have a more sturdy mettle. The military surgeon, a brave among braves, stepped forward and lay on the hand, which closed. He later recounted that the slimy fingers coiled around him with precise firmness, holding him tight but unhurt. Then the monster took flight again, and by now everyone could guess at its purpose. It crossed the sound in the opposite direction, and deposited the supplies and the surgeon on our shore, then he rose and made for the woods and disappeared behind the trees. All that time he had not made a sound, at least not one that could be heard over the howling winds.

The supplies turned out to be adequate, and the surgeon, still pale from his experience, took over our improvised medical pots. All the patients made it through the night. Among the supplies were military rations and several barrels of water. We could consider ourselves saved.

That afternoon the alderman called for a council, and of course everyone was there. He gave a brief accounting of the events and the current situation. It was no longer, he concluded, as desperate as it had been only twenty-four hours before, thanks to the supplies brought during the night. He did not elaborate on that passive voice, but looked at each of us, one by one, as he added that the government had brought more supplies on the opposite shore, and that hopefully they would reach us soon. In the meantime, he would keep on heading the relief efforts. If someone needed anything, he could speak then at the assembly or come to him later. He would also need volunteers to help with the many tasks at hand. Even people with no particular qualifications could contribute.

I appreciated the alderman’s sensible, allusive talk. He was clearly a level-headed man, who handled the situation as well as could be expected. There was a time of collective hesitation, and I thought the meeting could end without undue agitation. But then everyone started talking at once : who or what was that mysterious creature? People with only two meals in their cupboard, people who had lost family members the night before, suddenly could talk of nothing except of the monster, which some called more prudently “the creature”. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that one of the islander had somehow become or conjured that repugnant, and they looked all around with suspicion. But nobody came forward, and the alderman, with great difficulty, brought the conversation back to the subject of volunteers.
I joined the team that distributed the foodstuff, house by house, pushing a heavy wheelbarrow on the wind-swept roads. The storm was going on, as fierce as before, and so it was tiresome work, and I quickly fell asleep in my wife’s arms that night.

In the morning I learnt the creature had appeared again and, as the alderman had probably hoped, carried the second round of supplies across the strait. This time the people gathered without even being summoned, wanting answers. “It’s about thanking him,” said a loud man from the opposite end of the island, “or her,” my wife added, but they both agreed that it was capital to learn the monster’s provenance. New descriptions of it were more lurid, but consistent with what I had seen. “Please,” I said. People asked the surgeon if he had any clue that could help them. “No,” he said, and when our gazes met I could tell he was in agreement with me not to seek that particular truth. “Please,” I said again. Now everyone was asking everyone else who they had been with, at both times the creature had been sighted. Had someone acted strangely then? That behavior disappointed me. So far the islanders had acted very well, with great civic-mindedness, coming together in the catastrophe, sharing work and resources. This wasn’t America, where everyone behaved selfishly and tried to solve problems by shooting at each other. But now the people were united, not in fruitful work, but in idle talk and unserious speculation.

Finally I managed to get most people’s attention.
“Please! I am sure that whoever did this, assuming he or she is even one of us, would have already come forward if he or he did not prefer not to. So we ought to respect that wish, both as a matter of gratitude and as a practical matter. Otherwise he, or she, might feel that they cannot help us anymore. And do you want that?”
Many protested that it was not at all about disturbing our mysterious benefactor, it was just about making the situation clear, or even thanking the creature for its service. But another change had come across the crowd. People were looking at me with renewed attention and a kind of knowing expression. Evidently my mere suggestion that we respect the creature’s privacy had made me suspicious.
“But I understand your curiosity, I added. I did not see it last night, I was in bed with my wife. But I was there the first night when it appeared, and I wondered about it too.”
“Yes,” the alderman said with a wry smile. “You were there.”

The next few days did not dissipate the public feeling that I was somehow the creature, shapeshifted or glamoured into a human, or at the very least associated with it. Strangers and neighbors followed me, visited me on inane pretexts, gathered despite the winds to try and peer through my windows. The alderman made sure to visit and keep me apprised of every time the government brought more supplies. “Of course, of course,” he answered wryly when I said the whole population should be informed.
Even my wife had doubts. That second night, she had dozed almost as soon as I had, and was a heavy sleeper.

I thought, a little angrily, of confronting the other islanders, of spending my whole days in the public square until the monster reappeared, but then I second-guessed myself. If, as I had argued, we ought to respect the creature’s discretion, did I not help it by attracting the crowd’s attention? My neighbor’s curiosity was unseemly, but if I directed it on the right person, would I not be just as responsible for its consequences? Reluctantly I suffered the islanders’ gaze.

During the two weeks that the storm lasted, the monster, horrid and benevolent, made three more trips to the mainland, all successful, all at night. People always mentioned to me, with no subtlety at all, that it was doing a great service to the community, that they would keep its secret if they happened to chance on it, and that misplaced, prying gratitude chafed me more than their suspicion.

With my wife things were even worse. After the third flight she had asked if I wanted to sleep in the guest room, which irritated me, but I had already decided not to do anything that might take suspicion away from me, in service of our benefactor’s anonymity. So I said yes, and it confirmed her intuition. From then on he looked at me with frightful disgust. It was one thing to have a kind but repugnant monster for a neighbor. It was quite another to have shared her bed unwittingly with a disgusting, alien creature glamoured into human form, or stuffed somehow into human skin like rotten alien meat into a sausage casing. I suffered that too.

By the time the wind calmed down at last life on the island had become quite untenable for me. Strangers and erstwhile friends harassed me with a contradictory mix of prurient curiosity, gratitude and fear. Once the bridges would be repaired, I decided, I would sell my house and leave for the mainland.

The house sold yesterday. Before leaving the island forever, I took a last solitary stroll through the woods where I passed many good times in the decades before. It was a saddening spectacle to see all the trees felled by the tempest, strewn about, rotting already. The sickly smell of damp wood permeated the air, and I found myself in the throes of a maybe excessive melancholy. It was in this disposition that I came across a short, balding man, whom I had already seen around the island. He lived on the opposite side, I thought. As I approached he looked at me with sorry eyes, not at all filled with the disgusted and disgusting suspicion of the other islanders. I immediately guessed it was him.

“Hi,” he said first.
It was, obviously, an awkward situation.
“I heard you’re leaving the island.”
“That’s right.”
“I know what you’ve done,” he said softly, “and I’m grateful for it. You know who I am, right? Yes, you do. Well, as I said, I am grateful. I wish I could do something for you.”
“Could you fix my marriage?”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“My wife is disgusted by the thought I might be you. No offense meant.”
He touched his chin pensively.
“No. I can’t fix that.”
“Could you give me a new home?”
He flinched and studied me.
“Yes… But you can never come back. I cannot bring you back. Is it really, truly, what you want?”
I was surprised by how fast I decided.
“And your wife?”
“She’ll be happier that way.”
“Well, then.”

No more words were exchanged. He transformed. Like the surgeon had, I lay in his deformed hand, suppurating with noisome humors that quickly drenched my clothes. Ropy lings hung around me, like diseased willow branches, and above me a repugnant, manifold knot of flesh floated in the air, raised by many strange-shaped cartilaginous wings that glowed and festered. We rose and rose, and I understood that this last flight, taken in the daylight just as I disappeared, would perfect the creature’s alibi.

All, decidedly, was well, I decided while it dragged me as a horrid corpselike monster dragged me beyond the atmosphere and then beyond comprehensible space, though strange times and distances, into dying universes and the confused dreams of unborn races. We crossed incomprehensible immensities until I sensed confusingly that our destination was near. He deposed me at the top of a short colorless tower, on an overgrown island on a vertical sea, and I felt peace and gratitude again. I was home.

Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Hellrule :toxx:


Sep 5, 2011

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Hell-rule : no word in your story can be more than five chars long

Where the eye-less men went next (Perec set the text)
494 words

Then the six brave blind men clumb on the back of the beast (can’t tell you its name), and it took them on a long trip. There were risks on the roads; but they took them, and found out so much it would fill books. They could not see the world, or grasp most of it, but they did hear and smell and even taste it. They grew old, wise, and weary.

Their final stop was a weird place, which you might have heard about, but I’ll let them tell you of it.

“I hear many men chant, and the peel of bells echo on tall peaks. I smell myrrh and wax burnt on the altar. I feel the pull of the holy, the touch of our God,” said the first blind man. “ We are here at his very door. ‘Tis a land to pray.”

“I smell pork and duck stew with beans, just as I like it,” said his dear mate. “I smell warm cakes, fat lamb on spits, ripe pears, sugar and lard, cider and beer, roses in vases, musk on skin, fresh paint. Those who live here truly live. I hear them all flirt, drink, chew, tell jokes and poems, so loud, each home full of noise, each heart full of joy, each voice full of love or lust or wit. My belly and my loins crave rough bliss. ‘Tis a land to enjoy.”

“I feel the chill of late fall in the air,” said one of the other guys. “I hear the soft clang of arms piled, the sound of many locks at dusk. Boys don’t play ball on the green, as they used to. Folks watch their words and their steps on the road. I smell sweat and fear, salty blood, army chow. ‘Tis a land of peril.”

“Can you hear that bird’s call? I never heard it so far, in all our life-long tour of the world,” said the most quiet of them. “I hear sages talk about old and new texts I never knew of. I hear weird lingo to learn. I hear light steps on windy paths that are on no map yet. I smell a smell I can’t even begin to put in words, and I don’t even know if I like it, but it does haunt me and I’d give the rest of my life to know where it comes from. ‘Tis a land to study.”

One found he had not a word to say.

“That sad girl’s song, over there? My aunt used to sing one just like it when I was a child. There is a large tree to our left : I can feel its soft shade on my hand. Let me off. I want to sit on the musty earth under it and never move again. My trek’s over,” said the last blind man. “‘Tis a land to rest.”

Got it? The beast had gone in a loop; they were home.

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