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Old 2012-03-01, 3:29 PM   #26
Eskimo
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Primordial Soup


The malodorous, fetid miasma that permeates the water cooler is the congregated product of the hungover, the sleep deprived and the still drunk. Rehydrating desperately, willing their wilting livers into the immaculacy of youth, they each puff and bark strung together half remembered recollections of the evening, drowning out any whiff of televised comedy or calamity in an operatic ode to the libido sung to the surrounding workstations.

Man I totally railed this bitch last night. You would not belieeeeeeve the fucking epic rager I hit up. Verses are chorused by no ways and sick bro, each tale of sexual conquest contrasted by the riotous schadenfreude associated with a potential gout candidate, pointing out the fresh expulsion on his blazer. Soon any bystander attempting work in the purlieu of this debaucherous host is amalgamated until every chair but mine own is left vacant, the sole patron of this hedonistic cabaret.

A squeal rings out of the crowd like an ignorantly played violin and heralds a surprising topic change as Mr. M. Mortimer, wearing a well weathered basketball jersey over button down long sleeve plaid interjects a haunting account of prophylactic miscalculation by breaking into song. I am the very model of a modern major general slowly begins and crescendoes over a dismayed everyone.

Rebukes are lost or inaudible among the quartet now accompanying this rendition of Penzance. The periphery becomes awash in tales of the fantastical. Ms. S. Swan raises five newly manicured fingers over half of her available vision and proclaims herself Pirate Queen of the vast Caribbean. The temp, crew cut and singularly eyebrowed; his red tie unwinds and dances about the room, demonstrating a proficiency at rhythmic gymnastics heretofore unknown even to himself.

Soon the sprinklings of senselessness have found their way into every available cranial recess and all descend into personal accounts of the worlds of Robert Louis Stevenson and Bram Stoker. This new flock, manifesting a mania so faithful and divine, that each begin to baptize the other in droplets and drizzles fallen from armed styrofoam.

Then the wild stories devolve into shattered sentences and eventually gibberish. Clothes are flung about the room and before long the water cooler is the opening scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey as told in reverse. They fall to the ground and scream and wail in nonsensical jargon with no attempt at coherency.

While this I perceived initially as a reckoning, some intervention into the depravity of civilized life I now concede this merely as a feeling of terrible longing and envy. What colours and shapes and sounds they must be seeing, to go from monsters and treasure to being incapable to even convey the phantasmagoria in front of them. How could the somnambulistic repeat of my day to day ever compare?

I step through the fallen assemblage of this new church, past Mr. M. Mortimer now repeatedly meowing to himself in the fetal position and make my way to the water cooler and pour myself a long, tall glass. I swallow and help myself to a second round, then a third. It is in the fourth glass that I see, in the corner of my eye, mon meilleur ami, sanity and rational thought, waving a forlorn farewell to me. I wave back, a half hearted goodbye to boring predicting reality, a parting adieu to maddening sanity.
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Old 2012-03-04, 10:20 AM   #27
Vaal
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The Reward

Deep beneath the earth, ships sailed. Their hulls were miles thick stone and the sea beneath them were magma. Unaware and uncaring that they carried as crew the whole of the world, they engaged in eternal broadsides and ramming maneuvers.

Above, none that walked the surface knew this was happening, and so called them acts of god. At times, it is difficult to argue.

***

The old watch tower had once marked the edge of King Ostus Vargal's kingdom, a stone sentinel at the edge of the badlands between him and King Laisett of Taiya. But Laisett had been the first to fall to Vargal's sorcerous army, leaving the watchtower to rot and fall apart over sixteen years.

The timbers groaned, the stones shifted, and water poured from the ceiling in rivulets, courtesy of the storm that raged all around. And for the first time in all those years, someone was there to bear witness to its decay: Waylan Tidrial, former king of Forana, former leader of the Forana resistance following Vargal's sneak attack, former husband, former father after the same.

Still, he had fought on, after his kingdom fell, after his resistance was discovered and exterminated. And he had fought well, making his way deep into the heart of Vargal's kingdom of Niilia, into Castle Vargal, and into the king's chamber.

Only there was he discovered, captured and put in chains. To avoid the embarrassment of having how far Waylan made it discovered, Vargal had him sent here. That was five months ago. Now Vargal himself had come to visit.

The king-turned-emperor wore robes of red dyed leather, his fingers and neck glittering with mystic gems. As he observed the chained Waylan, himself dressed in sodden threadbare, he stroked his well groomed beard and clucked to himself, amused.

“I would have hoped to find you dead of despair.” He paced in front of Waylan, one hand on the shaft of the wand clipped to his belt. “After all, haven't I taken everything from you worth living for? You kingdom? Every knight who was loyal to you? Two sons, three daughters and a wife? Was this not enough?”

He scowled at Waylan, who remained silent. “What about slaughtering that rabble you raised to try and gain some of it back? Was that worth nothing? No, of course not. I've heard the tales you told them. I extracted them alongside screams in the torture chambers. They were very loyal to you, you know? Now they are very dead.”

Waylan remained silent, staring at the Emperor coldly.

“But yes, the stories; old, useless things my old nan used to tell me as well. Things bout the good in people, about never losing hope and how good prevailed. The difference between us, my dear Waylan—the reason why I am in expensive leather and you are in rotten rags—is that I grew up.

“I now know that people are petty and cruel, fit only to serve those who can take advantage of that. I know that hope is easy to take away—to crush and grind to nothing—if you only know where to look, how to push and what to burn. And I know, above all, that there is no good or evil, only levels of selfishness and self delusion. You think you were the Golden King, concerned for his people and serving them equally much as they served you? Open your eyes man, you stood on their backs every day you rules, only you weren't as honest as I. My shackles are fear and death, yours are manipulation; manipulating them into thinking they love you and that you make their lives better.”

Vargal pulled out the wand and pointed it. The sensation of dozens of burning needles sinking into his flesh made Waylan gasp and toss his dirtied mop of dark hair. But he didn't scream. He wouldn't allow himself to.

“Before I give you the sweet release of oblivion, if only to have you out of my troubles, I want you to admit that you were wrong; that you are alone in this world that defies your worthless tall tales and fables.

Rasping because of disuse, Waylan forced words out. “I am not wrong.”

Vargal let him have another wave of pain from the wand. “You are! Look around! Good men do not rise, the wicked are not punished, and miracles do not happen!”

“No!” Waylan roared, the last of his strength allowing him to rise to his knees. “You are wrong! And even if you weren't, the world you paint would not be worth living in, let alone ruling! You are the king of a heap of shit and you are covered with it, Vargal. You revel in it, eat it up. Because if good exists, or even something that isn't shit, it diminishes you.

“But just because there is shit, I am not lessened. It just forces me to aspire to be more. I gave everything for my people and they repaid me for the bounty I helped them create. I took nothing that wasn't needed to do more for them and I gave my blood and the blood of my sons, daughters and wife in defense of them. I gave the blood of those brave souls that fought against you still. And I would do it again, to give them just a glimmer of hope for something better than you to rule them.”

Miles below, where Waylan could not see or sense, the stone ships of the earth blundered blindly into one another, the impact reverberating upward with perfect synchronicity with Waylan's words.

“I'll die here, but I'm not the only one. You have no idea how many are out there; just like me, hopeful like me, idealistic like me. They will one day lay you low because these are truths: Good exists in all men, even you no matter how you've smothered it. And it will triumph over evil given time. And most importantly, sometimes, faith is rewarded and when it is, miracles do happen.”

The ground shuddered. Old mortar, turned to mud by the heavy rain, finally gave out. Beams snapped.

As the tower came down with them inside and death certain, Vargal couldn't have known the cause. All he knew was that Waylan was right.
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Old 2012-03-05, 4:02 PM   #28
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Vaal, i didn't read the rules and went WAY over the word limit... is this okay?
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Old 2012-03-05, 4:09 PM   #29
Vaal
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Dude, it's more than fine. I don't think I properly honored the word limit in a single challenge we've done.
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Old 2012-03-05, 4:58 PM   #30
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Reborn

The cold morning air blew into Thomas Keegan's face, its sharpness raising goosebumps on his neck and making his eyes water. He cleared them and inhaled deeply, the early morning smells – baking bread, hot asphalt from the road construction, the salty sea air – reaching him even at his twenty-third story window. He looked east toward the horizon, where the sun was just rising over the bay in the distance. He could hear the sound of gulls on the breeze, and wondered at the fresh newness that seemed to cover everything at this time of day, the vague feeling of rebirth that hung in the air.

This sudden thought tugged at him, made him look down at his shoes. Rebirth. If only things were that simple. He looked back out to the sunrise. Things were never that simple. Simple would have been saying no way back at the beginning. Simple would have been packing up at the first sign of trouble. Simple would have been a lot of things that wouldn't have resulted in this moment.

He looked down at his shoes again. He was still in his house slippers and bathrobe. The absurdity of the moment hadn't yet reached his brain. There were no conscious decisions at this point, no plan, just a grim resignation. There were no thoughts about events leading to this point, no ruminations about regret, hindsight, or anything else that common sense might play across the mind of a person about to meet his maker.

There was nothing.

Only a cold, empty numbness pervaded him. He dimly realized he was already standing on the sill, no memory of bracing himself on the frame as he stepped up into the opening. He looked down and actually laughed, noticing that this was completely different than how these situations usually played out on television. There was no ledge for him to stand on and huddle back against the brick of the building, a buffer for him to lean out and peer over. No, he was perched – rather comically – on a strip of wood and metal six inches wide, and had equal probability of falling back inside his own apartment than out into the waiting abyss.

The other element missing from whatever perceived notion he might have had were the spectators. There was no one poking their head out of the next window trying to talk him out of it. There were no rescue personnel setting up below, no crowd of onlookers. Indeed, he was high enough that he wouldn't even be noticed standing there. In any case, he had told nobody, left no letter, made no announcement. He would be leaping out into obscurity.

He took another deep breath and shook his head. None of that mattered. He would be leaving nothing behind but disappointment, debt and broken promises. He set his jaw and rubbed his hands together –

And in that moment, the stiff breeze that he had been partially leaning against suddenly abated, leaving him tipping forward out into the open. His hands shot out to grab the window frame and caught, giving him his first proper look straight down. The height was staggering, and it took a moment for his vision to stabilize.

But it was there in that moment, hanging precipitously twenty-three stories above the pavement, that everything seemed to come into sharp focus. For the first time in too many years, he had a sudden determination to follow through on a decision, even if that decision was made in the part of his brain that had been recently vacated by any and all rational thought. His hands, almost of their own volition, released their grip on the window frame.

The world lurched sickeningly and he was in freefall. The first second put his heart in his throat, the next brought the wind screaming up at him, drowning out all other sound. Finally came dizzying pressure, as if the pavement below was already pressing against his body in anticipation. As the ground violently hurtled up at him, the message finally made it through the firewall in his brain and exploded across all of his senses. You're going to die. In that second, there was no peace, no grim resignation. Just a complete and utter reality-shattering terror, the likes of which he had never experienced before, to the point of it being physically painful, making his muscles seize up and his breath catch in his lungs. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. There was no motor function of any kind.

Helplessly he watched the ground rise up to meet him, realizing with some detached disappointment that this, as well, was not playing out how he expected. Time had not slowed down. He was not seeing any part of his life flash before his eyes. If anything, his end was approaching faster with each second, leaving time for really only one thought, the cliché of which would have made his formerly rational self roll his eyes.

What have I done?

The impact was sooner than he expected. It knocked the wind out of him, his eyes shut, but it felt strange, like he had landed across something rather than the sharp impact he was expecting. His body twisted oddly, and there was a deep thrumming sound that pulsed in time to the sudden fierce eddies of air current swirling around him.

He risked opening his eyes a crack. The gound, surprisingly, was receding away from him, and his vision was obscured in time to the thrumming sound, almost like the beating of – he opened his eyes further – wings. He looked up, and was suddenly startled to be looking into the most brilliant piercing eyes he had ever seen.

It took a minute for the situation to fully sink in. He was being held aloft in the arms of a woman, strong and determined, yet kind, with classical features like a figure out of Greek myth. Contrary to the image his brain wanted to form, she was dressed like a warrior, clad in leather with a rather intimidating sword sheathed across her shoulders. The wings that held them suspended in midair were wide and powerful, yet light and translucent like feathery crystal, seeming to draw no effort from the woman, who continued to look directly into him. Her face, however, was in shadow. The morning sun was directly behind her, and wisps of her silver hair caught the light to form a corona around her face.

He couldn't remember if she opened her mouth or not, because she seemed to speak directly into his soul. But he relaxed, because the words he found there were warm and filled with strength, comfort, and – for the first time in years – hope.

“Fear not,” she said softly. “Everything will be all right. I've got you.


Can't take credit for the angel character - she's borrowed from the book my wife Noel is writing.

Last edited by Clay; 2012-03-05 at 5:02 PM.
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Old 2012-03-05, 6:25 PM   #31
pakx
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Jawbone

My hands were always dirty.

They were covered in a silt of black dirt. I would shape them like spades and dig out the earth carefully and with great deliberation. I would spend as much time as it took, spacing out each little hole, squatted down on my haunches with my elbows pressed into my ribs, scooping the rich earth out. Then I would reach into a little satchel at my hip and produce a grain seed, and lay it down as if it were a babe, and tuck it under the dirt with all of the lord’s love.

I thought often of the lord as I worked, alone with my thoughts. He seemed so close, so present. I would walk through my golden fields of food and sift my fingers through the gentle wisps of grass as they batted against me like a kitten’s paw. I liked to work in bare feet, to feel the earth against my skin as I walked, feel the insects and the worms, the things that made the soil good and which frightened my parents and pestered my brother. I understood them.

The sky was great and eternal, endlessly it seemed to hum its overlaying blue over the orange and purples that slithered through it on gentle strokes of white. When it rained I would run outside as my brother and parents cowered from the thundering billows of the Lord, I would drudge through the mud and scoop the wet earth away from each crop by hand. I would make little motes around the base of every sprout and crop, and for my work I would look up as the rain stopped and see the lord’s grace fleet across the sky in a spell of infinite and perfect colour. When the sun fell we could see all the stars of heaven and I would wonder of them as a child would any great thing. They seemed so far away; so perfectly, endlessly far away. It all seemed so big. We all seemed so small... All of us.

My brother was a being of grace and purity. He never dirtied himself, he worked with animals in stables, not in the dirt with the insects like me. He raised sheep and brought lambs into the world with soothing words and gentle hands. When he cleaved their heads they seemed almost happy for it. He would take from his flock and his flock didn’t seem to mind. He was a benevolent Sheppard, and everyone loved him. To think back on it, even I loved him. I would bring him bushels of wheat from my fields and he would smile at me and the sweat of labor seemed to evaporate. I wanted only to help him.

My father came to us one afternoon as I laid down bails of wheat in great troths for bread making and my brother shooed his newest litter of lambs into a new stable my father had built for him. Father was hysterical, tears soaked his old shirt, a garment he was always fidgeting with, as he ran to us like a scared child. He was screaming and waving his arms, and when I caught him in my arms he collapsed into them. Used as I was to heavy lifting, I propped him up as my brother skipped forward and laid his gentle clean hands on my father’s cheeks and wiped away his tears.

Father told us that the lord demanded a sacrifice.

We both took the news with less enthusiasm than he had. Perhaps he thought this was his redemption, perhaps any contact with the lord god still welled up all those horrible feelings which first consumed him for the sins of him and mother, thus damning us all.

No matter, my brother and I went to work.

I walked through my fields, golden and splendid, with my old iron scythe. In some haste I gathered up bundles of wheat and carried them over my broad shoulders. I heaved and sweat in the great sun as it travelled across the sky, and when my sacrifice was gathered, I knelt at the herb garden I had hidden in the depths of my field and in careful, gentle movements, and I took what I needed.

As I left the valley where I kept my crop, my brother came to me in some urgent panic and begged me for a bale of my wheat. I tried to explain to him that this wheat was for the forthcoming sacrifice, but he fell to his knees and pulled on my shirt, begging me for just a little for his sheep. I could not bear to see my brother like this, and I lifted him up. I gave him one of my bales and he thanked me brightly and ran off to his stables to feed his goat.

On the morning of the sacrifice, my brother and I walked to the highest peak we knew before the sun was to rise. My brother had a lamb slung over his shoulder, bound by the feet and bleating in something of a panic which my brother seemed to ignore with a clement expression. I carried my bushels of grain and herb over my back, slung and bound with the best rope I could make. We came to the peak and I laid down my grain and grunted, rubbing my neck and stretching my back. My brother lifted the sheep from him and set it down gently upon the rock. At first it seemed to struggle, but as he laid his hands upon its gentle downy face, it calmed and fell silent.

I lit a fire between us and offered a torch to my brother, who thanked me graciously and set it beside his lamb, producing a long blade which he sharpened with a black rock. I watched him for a moment with some puzzlement. I suppose I should have known what he was going to do, but it had never occurred to me to kill an animal for a reason besides food. I turned from my brother and unravelled my crop from the sling, tethering it down with a loose knot woven throughout each bundle, piled neatly with the herbs woven into the very fiber of the rope. Then I sat and waited on the rock, cool to the touch by the night’s receding fingers.
As the sky began to brighten in less deep shades of bluish grey, we sat. The lamb bleated calmly and my brother offered it some passing affection. I smiled at the lamb and then looked out at the expanse to the east, a great and mysterious land visible far and away called Nod. I wondered if there were people there, if the lord had wrought yet more children than our parents to live in paradise and be tested with the temptation of knowledge. I wondered if they failed too, I wondered if their sons had to work the land and slaughter in order to survive. The sun was coming.

We both rose at once as the sun passed over all things, its very tip was visible and we turned away lest we be blinded by its glory. I lifted my torch and looked to my brother, who knelt over the lamb with his blade, and to my shock and horror slit its throat, spilling steaming blood on the cold rock and silencing the poor little creature forever. I looked at my brother’s face and it seemed so serene. I was mortified. He quickly gathered a thick bundle of leaves and twigs he had been gathering while I prepared my sacrifice, and set them on the babe. He set the torch to his crime and it lit in a great waft. I turned from this horror and threw my torch on the bundle of crop, which burst into great red flames.

Again, we waited. The sun lifted over the horizon in entirety and we watched. My brother’s sacrifice bellowed deep thick wisps of black smoke which rose straight up into the air, up into eternity to tell us that the lord was pleased. My crop however, let out thin puffs of smog that disappeared as soon as they rose from the fire. The lord had accepted my brother’s sacrifice, but not mine.

My brother stood triumphant over his fire with his arms raised shouting that god favored him. He did not even seem to realize I was there anymore. I stood there with the fruit of my labor, my hard work, and my dirty hands, tilled and wasted for nothing. I stared at the charred little corpse at my brother’s feet and grew hateful and lugubrious. A feeling rose in me, one of discontent and betrayal. I hated my brother, and what’s more, I hated my lord.

I left the place of sacrifice and my brother followed gleefully, eager to tell mother and father what had happened.

That night as my parents and brother slept, I stood awake. All of it was for nothing. God loved him, not me. Why? Why would he do this? I worked so hard, I tilled and cultivated, I fed my family. I decided that God was cruel, and that doing his work was a game I refused to play without reward. I walked out into the night and lit a new fire, set with my herb garden in the centre of my crop field, and set the entire valley alight. I stood on the hills to the east and watch it all burn, and in the black night, I saw the smoke evaporate immediately. It drove me mad.
Every night for five nights I slaughtered one of my brother’s lambs. I used no tool to do it, I grabbed them by their necks and wrung them out, and then snapped their limbs and ripped their flesh with my bare hands. After my bloodlust was sated I would clean my hands as best as I could manage, and wait for the morning, when my brother would wonder what horrible thing could have befallen the poor little creatures he didn’t decide to murder in cold blood for his precious lord.

These games and cruelties sated nothing. All I wanted was for the lord to love me and not him. The entire world’s hate was in me.

Why are you furious? Why are you downtrodden?

Because I hate you. Because you reject me.

If you do right, won't you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.


I do not wish to master it. If you will not embrace me, then sin will embrace me and I sin. I will not work for you or my family’s sustenance and glory. I will work for your beggarment. For your gal, for your hate. I will show you how petty you are. I will destroy that which you love. I will destroy your most precious things.


On the morning after the fifth night, I told my brother that I had seen a fox fleeting off into the woods west of the stables. He seemed immensely pleased by this information, not in his usual, benevolent way, but in a cruel and punitive manner. I saw wrath in his eyes, the lord’s wrath.

I led him out into the woods, the sun reached out through the trees, clawing at my brother as if the lord god knew what I was about. I grinned from in front my brother at the idea that the almighty could not save him. I thought what a small god, he is. What a petty little god, one who plays favorites, who demands needless waste, who tricks his children and remorselessly demands blood.

I will give the lord god blood.

I will give the lord god blood.


I will give the lord god blood.


We reached an old fox den and I told my brother to peer inside and look for the little brigand who had slaughtered his flock. As he bent down I produced the jaw of an ass that died in the fields doing the lord’s endless toil, and I struck my brother hard on the back of the neck. He collapsed and I mounted him, striking over and over. I could feel the warm blood spurt up into my face and slither over my hands. I felt his skull collapse and watched in ecstasy as his brains bubbled in a fine paste from every blow I made. I broke his arms and legs, and left him there in the wilderness to go wash my hands.

The blood washed away into the stream, but the dirt remained. It always remained.

Where is your brother Abel? His blood cries to me from the ground!

I looked at my hands and I laughed at the little god who couldn’t find his lost lamb, who was too inept, too lazy, too stupid, too cruel or too indifferent to stop his own creation from forsaking him.

I stood up from the stream and began to walk east to Nod.

I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?
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Old 2012-03-06, 6:48 PM   #32
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Inspector Spacetime
Really enjoyed it. You got a lot in for the short amount of space. Some of the metaphors were a bit clunky for me but overall I really liked it. I thought the ending was excellent.

Jimmy McForum
This one made me chuckle. I loved it. The part about the sickle was the only thing that wrenched me out of it all, but I sure as hell didn’t see the last half coming.

Eskimo
Another funny one. It was gloriously overwritten, and I mean that in the best way possible. The very academic nature of your prose lent itself really well to the absurdity going on in your story.

Vaal
This one seemed like the last piece of a larger story, but it made me want to read the rest of the story. If I had one complaint it would be that the dialogue is a little... on the nose? It doesn’t feel particularly bad, just kind of expository, that’s all. I liked it though, the earthquake metaphor totally plays.

Clay
This was really good, man. the last line could use another go through but other than that I really liked it. If nothing else it left me wanting to know more. I wanted to know why the man was there, what the angel was, what the people on the ground must have thought when he came crashing into the pavement.
I think it was Neil Gaiman who said “the three greatest words any writer could possibly ever hear – “what happens next?”
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Old 2012-03-06, 9:38 PM   #33
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That was immensely beautiful Pakx. I've often thought about the "first murder" framed in that way--but you put it all in Cain's perspective so eloquently.
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Old 2012-03-07, 7:47 AM   #34
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I decided to have a stab at this, and whilst doing so...uh...auto-correct, what the shit?

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Old 2012-03-08, 12:23 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mayfly View Post
I decided to have a stab at this, and whilst doing so...uh...auto-correct, what the shit?

I . . . don't even want to know.
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Old 2012-03-08, 1:07 PM   #36
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I should preface this by saying I'm really more of a reader than an editor. I almost exclusively sub vocalize when reading 'for fun' because I enjoy the sound of words as much as what they convey. I'm sure a lot of people will be at odds with this in that it promotes author intrusion, which is something that I'm sure for a lot of you is anathema. That being said, as much as I adore getting completely swept away in a narrative, there's also something to be said about being conscious enough of the writing to be able to stop and admire a beautifully crafted line (I underline my favourite bits). So with that in mind...

Inspector Spacetime

I enjoyed your story, I would change the title. I learn very early on about the post apocalyptic world and the digging men through your words that I would rather go into it unspoiled and have it revealed to me than have a cheat sheet like in the title. Let me earn the fate of man, don't hand it over right away.

Quote:
it was more vibrant than the most skillfully rendered minor pentatonic scale eminating from a six-stringed acoustic Fender
- This is nice imagery but awfully complex for someone who has never even seen a guitar. I would either make it more ambiguous or more clear that he is simply remembering the words of another. I would do this either through intentionally misspelling words i.e. "pendadonic whatsit" or further establishing that he is merely holding onto the words of the the elders as if they were sacred, enough so to memorize a phrase like that.

Quote:
Men dig. Into dust our life was breathed, and to the dust we've returned.
- This is super fly.

Overall solid, if you ever go back to it I would extrapolate more on a culture deprived of the sun for so long, and play around with the way in which your narrator thinks, how would someone who has always lived underground speak? What kind of metaphor would they use, how would they dream deprived of sunlight perennially? And I know endings are killer for all of us, but yours felt a bit rushed, the idea of salvation was too immediate, I would stagger and wrestle with it a bit more.

Good stuff

Jimmy McForum

Great title. I like how playful you are with language and grammatical syntax, the repetition of "play your game" etc. The voice of your character was fully believable and clear. I kind of got an early Palahniuk vibe (without the obvious filth) and I mean that as a good thing.

Quote:
Jeez, was Bobby Orr watching? Wouldn't that be something
- Did you go back and bold this line? I think I preferred it initially when you only bolded the dialogue of the gods. I like that 'that' isn't italicized to provide emphasis, it could have been flipped and worked just the same, but I prefer it your way.

Quote:
The Soviets knew no prayers, so they only stared
- Good shit.

All around delicious, but you already know I'm a firm proponent of your work. You put the time in, and it shows.

Vaal

Quote:
Deep beneath the earth, ships sailed
- Nice opening line.

Were you going for a Samson analogue? I was unsure. I love how you described tectonic plates shifting in your first paragraph, very vivid and a powerful opening. The evil emperor/fallen king and conquered civilization felt too by the numbers for me, unfortunately. I think this kind of story is difficult in that it deals with a lot of themes and ideas that are very well tread and really only work when you have the time to cultivate emotional resonance which is pretty difficult in flash fiction. I would either have done more world building and described the relationship in greater detail between the two characters, or gone into more personal accounts involving their deeds.

I think the evil emperor is too much of a mustache twirling caricature to truly inspire disdain or hatred from the reader. When dealing with a familiar trope, I find a good way to get past this is to give villains memorable idiosyncratic traits or some degree of moral ambiguity. When I think of the villains that inspire bowel crushing terror and awe in me, I can easily identify at least one of their mannerisms, flaws or at least a certain je ne sais quoi that makes me think of them days after the story is read, thinking "damn, what a miserable son of a bitch".

Quote:
You are the king of a heap of shit and you are covered with it, Vargal. You revel in it, eat it up. Because if good exists, or even something that isn't shit, it diminishes you.

But just because there is shit, I am not lessened.
I love the word shit, but I don't think it really fits in the dialogue between a former king and an evil emperor. I just see them using different language. Not that there isn't a place for shit, but among these characters I feel it's the kind of word that is rarely candid. I don't know, it didn't work for me.

You're a talented writer Vaal, I enjoy reading your work and your intro blew me away.

Clay

I pretty much lived in your first paragraph, I was there. I liked the repetition of 'simple', I would cut out one though, either "if only things were that simple" or "things were never that simple", I think its more powerful without these two so close to one another. Maybe even end it with "Simple would have been a lot of things".

Quote:
No, he was perched - rather comically - on a strip of wood and metal six inches wide, and had equal probability of falling back inside his own apartment than out into the waiting abyss.
- Awesome. I also liked "He would be leaping into obscurity", too true.

Also I adored how you wrote the actual fall, I felt it in my gut, what a prosefessional.

I have to admit when we were first introduced to the angelic heroine I thought she was a valkyrie based on your describtion of her, which led me to assume he had fallen to his death and was actually being carried off to the halls of Valhalla for dying a warriors death in an assault on life and the pavement, instead of succumbing to the waste of his every day. I'm glad I was wrong, your ending was better.

Cool story bro.

Pakx

Loooooove the title.

I think it's crazy hard to put a spin on such a well known story with such a universal theme and have it get over well but you did it with style and you had me the whole way through. I liked the simplicity in which you wrote, like seeing through the eyes of a babe of god, fresh to the world, constantly referring to himself and describing the world around him in colours and shapes that seemed entirely true to how someone who toiled endlessly in dirt would speak.

I liked that "Father told us that the lord demanded a sacrifice" was its own paragraph, the inciting incident flagged atop a mountain. I think my only complaint would be that the main character described his emotions once too often "It drove me mad" etc, I felt you conveyed his feelings through his actions and words of hatred for lord and family well enough on their own that I felt almost, too inside his head sometimes. But it's a minor complaint.

"I thought what a small god, he is" - The comma placement makes this, gooood stuff. How you depicted the murder was brutal, shivers. Fantastic final line.


Good job everyone! I really enjoyed all of your work, and can't wait to read more from all of you, thank you all so much for sharing.
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Old 2012-03-08, 2:02 PM   #37
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Thanks for the review, Eskimo

I was trying to make them generic on purpose, really, because the story's supposed to be *about* the Deus Ex Machina, but looking back, I probably spent too much time with them and not enough on the DEM. Probably should have cut a bit of the middle and ended with what the peasantry think happened so it doesn't feel so focused on those two.
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Old 2012-03-08, 3:59 PM   #38
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This went waaaaay off track from what I originally had in mind, but that's what happens sometimes when writing so here it is anyway! Experimenting with second-person narrative.

Quote:
You often hear it, but never see it. When all else falls silent, its song pierces the stifling darkness.


Whip – oor – wiiill!

Whip – oor – wiiill!

The last note is always pitched higher than the notes preceding, lending an air of panicked urgency to the repetitive call. It is this note that grates on you the most.



Every night as the sun sets and the radiance of day recedes, so is the light in your consciousness extinguished. Night is a cruel antagonist, bringing with it demons of anxiety, torment, and fear. These nocturnal beasts wait out the daylight hours, lurking just behind your eyes, waiting for the darkness to release them. Without fail, night after night, they are on the prowl, and they are hungry.


There is a reason you are afraid of the dark.


Whip – oor –wiiill!

You think of the call as a sort of lullaby, to help you drift off to sleep.


Whip – oor – wiiill!

Your limbs are restless, and you try in vain to make yourself comfortable.


Whip – oor – wiiill!

What if you can’t make ends meet this month?


Whip – oor – wiiill!

What if you overdraw on your bank account?


Whip –



What if you get laid off?


Oor –


What will you do if you lose everything?


WIIILLL!

You spend a lot of nights this way, tossing and turning against the cacophony of thoughts in your mind, spinning round and round and round, churning up every failure and shortcoming in a relentless and brutal tide.


Whip – oor – wiiill!

A frustrated tear slips past your closed eyelids, and you swipe it away in disgust. You’ve had your fair share of crying yourself to sleep. You wait for the exhaustion to finally outweigh the noise, and you drift into a fitful sleep.


Another day, and your smile comes easy. The mental anguish of the night before is viewed as through a thick haze, as though the insecure and troubled mind belongs to someone else entirely, evaporating like dew in the warm glow of the morning sun. The demons are in hiding, the cruel mistress focusing her lunar eye elsewhere, the black dog asleep.


Before long, twilight comes, and you feel an itch. Loneliness and the Fear that is its companion return to share your bed, creeping under the sheets.


Whip – oor – wiiilll!

It’s reaching.


Whip – oor – wiiilll!

Something constricts.


Whip – oor – wiiilll!

It grips.


Whip –


You’re alone.


Oor –


It knows.


Wiiillllllll

Something rises in your throat.


Whip…

It wants out.


Oor…

Finally, you catch a glimpse.


It’s in a branch by your window, and it sees you.


Its large, watery eyes stare unblinkingly, and you stare back. It snaps at a passing moth fluttering by. Something arrives in the shadows, and there is a commotion in the branches. In a chaotic flurry it retreats, and you hold your breath in the silence. You close your eyes and drift off to sleep.


In the early hours, as the first rays of dawn break through the glass, a sound rouses you. You blink against the clear and radiant light. A morning bird is singing.
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Old 2012-03-11, 12:49 PM   #39
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I'm really loving the stories. I'm a little nervous but I'm going to give it a shot!
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Old 2012-03-11, 1:30 PM   #40
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The samurai swung his sword again, and another enemy fell. The samurai's path could be drawn in blood, from the citadel's guards at the gate, through the narrow roads among the barracks, and up the grand stairs toward the palace. One could retrace the samurai's steps all the way to the drawbridge simply by walking on the fallen bodies of the men he'd slain.

Now, the emperor stood before him, his eyes ablaze with righteous indignation.

"Ronin, your mission is a fool's folly. The Oracle foretold I would only be felled by the rifle of a Westerner. I know the outcome of this fight."

The emperor drew a sword with an ornate handle from his scabbard and engaged the ronin. The two brutal men began a dance of metal; a dance where one misstep would lead to swift death.

"I took a merchant ship to the Western world," the ronin said. "I found a rifleman who listened to my tale. The tale of an emperor gone mad, using the power of his soothsayer to conquer lands and slaughter thousands. He agreed to return with me and finally unseat you from your spoiled throne."

Every strike of the ronin's sword was met with the emperor's. "The Oracle warned me of his arrival. I was the one who sent those ninjas. Your Westerner didn't survive his first night on my land."

Another strike; another parry. Sparks bounced from the clashing blades. The ronin sneered, "What you say is true."

The emperor grinned cruelly. "You would have been killed as well, had you not fled so quickly. My ninjas returned with your sword. Do you not recognize it? I am using it against you."

The ronin grimaced. "This is also true. Which begs the question: What sword am I using now?"

In one swift motion, the ronin disarmed the emperor and ran him through, to the hilt. The ronin stared into the emperor's eyes as life retreated from them.

"I forged it from the Westerner's rifle."
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Old 2012-04-04, 8:08 PM   #41
Vaal
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Last Call folks. Tomorrow, a new challenge appears!
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Old 2012-04-05, 10:32 AM   #42
Athos
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Dang it... my file got corrupted and I've lost my story that I was going to submit.

Oh well, it wasn't that great anyhow. I'll just have to get in on the ground floor on the next challenge.
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