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Re: [Sep 2016] - Pirates! - Submission Thread 832 words
Friendly fire

Spoiler for Hiden:
You look old and tired now. You see your reflection in the mirror and your face is riddled with scars, each one telling a story. You brush your hand over the scar that cuts across your left eye and you never forget the horrors of that day.

But it’s over now; your story is done. You are sad, but excited to settle down with your share of the bounty that your crew has helped collect over the years. You are scared to leave the ship and not feel your baby’s rocking rhythm as it sails across the waves. You have never stayed more than a week or two on land, but to rest and die there seems strangely fitting.

You know the ship like the back of your hand and each route of the ocean courses through your veins; the waves have always been your mistress, but you have not yet danced with the dunes. You are not sure if she will accept you.

You wonder why you doubt yourself now, when you were so sure weeks ago. You know the crew can take care of themselves and you know Jonah will make an excellent captain. Jonah, your son on the sea—your real son a failure and a disgrace; you dare not speak his name.

The crew will raid more ships when you leave. You have become weak and old, your bones too brittle for the waters. You sigh and walk out of your chambers to face your crew.

They all stare at you, watching you with every step you take, your wooden legs creaking on the floorboards. They all take a sip of their ale and watch you walk towards Jonah, who still looks at you in legendary awe. They murmur, probably wondering why you made Jonah captain.

You know Jonah is nervous and you can see your son shaking in his boots as he stares at the ocean. You pat him on the back and smile at him and he smiles back. You worry if he may be too weak.

You wonder if some members of the crew still don’t understand why you are leaving all you have ever known and you wonder what they think about you. How many curses have they laid upon your head? You see Viros staring at you out of the corners of her eyes, and you wonder if she prayed that the waters would rise against you and swallow you up.

You can’t see your actions as traitorous, but the crew looks at you like you’re pox infested. You holler at them to piss off and face their work.
You frown deeply when you see Jonah running over like a lapdog towards Viros to fill her cup of ale and the girl smirks at you as she sips from her cup. You still believe Jonah will rise up and take up and take control. You have to.

You notice some new lads on the ship: survivors of the last ship they raided. You nod at them as they scrub the floor till it shines brighter than the sun for a few scraps. One looks up at you and you slam their heads on the plank of the floorboards. The lad dare not look the face of  his sea father until his first raid.

You demand for everyone’s attention and they all stare at you immediately. It feels good to know your bones are not that brittle yet. You make Jonah stand by your side so he can look at things from the captain’s view and the boy still looks scared. The crew mates chug down the rest of their ale and you begin the first process of handing down the trinkets from your raids to Jonah. You give him the ivory crown you slit throats for on a royal ship; you give him the golden skull you stole from a merchant ship. You give Jonah everything before you remove the captain’s hat from your head: the hat that you sleep with, that never leaves your head. It is his now. He is captain now.

You see everyone’s eyes widen and you wonder if they are jealous, but that’s not the case. They fall to the floor and scream as their intestines boil and bubble like a fresh stew, their bodies contorting as blood pours out from their eyes and ears. You hear every piercing note and disturbing cries until the voices melt away. You look at the cups of ale lying on the floor, then you slowly turn and look at Jonah, who is no longer the scared little boy you thought you knew.

He is smiling, holding up the bottle of poison in one hand and a blade in the other. You can’t believe it. In the distance, you see a fleet of ships coming closer and closer; the ships Jonah was waiting for.

You look at you son and slowly nod. Out of fear or respect, you cannot tell.
He has risen up.

October 01, 2016, 04:26:41 PM
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Discussion Thread So I think I may have posted my story, but it's been quite a bit now and it's not shown up in the submission thread.
October 18, 2016, 02:57:07 PM
Re: [Sep 2016] - Pirates! - Voting Thread Congratulations @SugoiMe. I voted for you! ;D
October 31, 2016, 02:21:46 PM
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Discussion Thread I wrote a story too :)
October 31, 2016, 10:44:47 PM
Re: [NOV 2016] - 1750 - Discussion Thread So, does this mean our story can take place anywhere in the world as long as it's 1750?

November 01, 2016, 06:47:53 PM
Re: [NOV 2016] - 1750 - Discussion Thread I'm mostly doing research right now because I don't want my story to have a traditional setting.
November 01, 2016, 11:08:48 PM
Re: [SEP 2016] Pirates! - Critique Thread
Also interested in feedback for my story, Friendly Fire

Here's my critique of Friendly Fire, hope it is helpful.

Spoiler for Hiden:
As ever, my critique is offered with respect. My critique style is different, and no doubt universally despised. I look for 4 things: clarity, brevity, consistency (the text with expectations of audience and itself), and whether the text is compelling.

Brevity: Your story was efficient and smooth and didn't lag, so no issues here IMHO.

Clarity: Your clarity was near-perfect in the normal sense of "what is happening." I was never confused even though I am hyper-sensitive to ambiguities in this area. However, in terms of "when it is happening" things were less clear. The present tense has some wrinkles, and you were unclear as to which present tense you were using: simple, progressive, etc. This is a natural weakness of English, which relies on verb choice to prevent ambiguities. For example: "I am going to school" could mean I am in the car headed to class right now, or it could mean that I am taking classes even though I am on a plane to Memphis for a funeral at the moment, or despite it's grammatical tense, it could even mean the future.

Compelling: Thematically, your story was compelling to me, because I am at that age where I would hand things off to my sons, and I understand/appreciate the idea of adopting people we meet in life as surrogate family members, so I identified with the MC, and liked the story you set out to tell from the start.

In execution, the compelling aspect became lost to me in the tense and 2nd person POV, which I found forced. I despise present tense, so I approached it as I did Jmack's. This is simply a matter of my taste, not your writing skill, and I respect your willingness to go into an unconventional tense and POV.

Consistency: This story presented issues I've never really examined before, and I am unsure whether they are related to clarity or self-consistency, but I put them here.

2nd person/present is a true departure that requires one to completely adjust their story-telling approach - not just the grammar and related mechanics, but the focus must also be shifted, and it felt like a 3rd POV/past tense story approach that had been converted to 2nd/present. I think I am trying to say the structure was inconsistent with the tense/POV choice.

One weakness of this style is exemplified in this line: "You wonder why you doubt yourself now,  when you were so sure weeks ago."  This is an adaptation of something that works in 3rd and 1st Person, but not at all in 2nd IMHO: the reporting of an emotion, thought, reaction, etc.   In 1st and 3rd POV, we can and must accept that the character feels the emotion, but in 2nd we might think "No I don't", and even if we do not reject the premise, we cannot really accept it because it's us and we weren't until you told us.

This example is intense because the first sentence does it twice - we're told we are wondering and that we are doubting. Paring off one or both of these would help, leaving with just the concept of lack of confidence - something more easily acceptable, if you follow me: "Little of your confidence remains after weeks of ..."

Present tense is supposed to lock the reader into a scrolling "now" that moves along, but verb ambiguity (partly due to the issues with English present tense verbs) blurred things. Tricky.

The 6th paragraph has a slip into future tense, and marks what feels like a transition into the "now": "The crew will raid [future] more ships when you leave. You have become weak and old [past tense], your bones [grammatically present tense, or implied that it's also past tense like the previous clause?] too brittle for the waters. You sigh and walk out of your chambers to face your crew."

The story was concise, and very efficient. I found the twist at the end to be surprising and impactful - and liked that despite the narrator's closeness to Jonah, s/he was surprised.

I do not know if there's any way around the repetition of "You + verb" sentence beginnings.

Apologies on the length and convoluted feedback, but tense is tough to tackle and things get muddled. I enjoyed the story, and didn't consciously experience much of the stuff this critique mentions until I really looked at it. Rough stuff, this 2nd POV/Present thing.
Wow! Thank you so much! I really appreciated this! ;D

November 02, 2016, 04:40:18 PM
Re: [NOV 2016] - 1750 - Submission Thread Conflict Of Interest.

1,153 words.

Note: The story does take place in 1750, but I had to use the Tibetan calendar for realistic purposes.
Spoiler for Hiden:
With the end of the world near , Biyu thought it was best to start breaking chains before she disappeared. She kicked things off with a grating passive-aggressive attitude and a lack of concern to anyone who stood near her after that until she drove them all away, like pesky mosquitoes at the sight of bug spray.
     It was fine. She wanted them gone already. None of them had gone through what she had been through. They were all ignorant and she was happy to let them die while she lounged in ‘60s France, knowing she would be the lucky one; the one who got to run away when everything died.
     She bit her lip at the thought of not absolutely knowing where she was going. And she didn't want her one-way ticket back in time to send her back by a month or a year. That was her only worry. Anywhere else, she could make the best of it, as long as it was far away from where she was now.
     Mom called and the phone vibrated with such power that it shook on the table. She leapt up from her position on the sofa and sighed, switching the stupid thing off and stuffing it in her pocket. She adjusted the straps of her backpack and
     Biyu got up from her couch and closed the window blinds. She really wasn't interested in seeing anyone’s face, because in a few weeks they would join the clutter of rotting  flesh that would fill the earth. But it wasn’t her fault, she told herself. She didn't ask for this, but she knew it was going to happen and she had to get out while she still could.
     It was too bad for the rest of them. She looked at the blue ticket, which laid in the palm of her hand and slowly curled it into a fist. The ticket burst into a blue light and shined out of the cracks in between her knuckles. The light transformed into streaks that crawled up her arm. She gasped, taking shallow breaths. The creatures lied when they said she wouldn’t feel a thing, but she fought through the pain, thinking of how close she was to a new life. A new beginning. With each blink, she felt her eyesight get blurrier until the world turned perfectly black.


She found that color came back slowly but her ears popped and the ringing stopped. She could hear voices, almost familiar with the dialect she heard Mom speak. It wasn't quite the same though. She was definitely somewhere in Asia.
     The words traded were fast and rushed and she looked up and saw the faces stare back at her. The woman had bags under her eyes and her child’s face looked red and puffy, probably had been crying.
      The woman said something to her. Biyu cursed under her breath and thought about the words. It snapped into her brain. It was Chinese. Not her Mom’s though. It was more traditional. More native. She remembered from vacations and her grandmother. She took a bit off time adjusting to it and she cringed at how unnatural and awkward it sounded, but, nevertheless, it got the conversation going.
     “Who are you?” The woman asked. Her voice seemed harsh, like she was ready to spit in her face.
     “What year is this?” Biyu deflected the question. She wasn't ready for the conversation involving disbelief if she told the woman she was from the future.
     “Thirteen Rab-byung, fourth year of the Iron-Horse,” the little girl said. Her mother glared at her and she hid behind the woman, occasionally peeking behind her.
     “What’s your name?” The woman shot again and Biyu rubbed her temples, annoyed at the woman’s questions. Still, to not answer any of their questions would be disrespectful.
     “Biyu Zhang.”
     “Your Chinese is bad. You are a foreigner?”
     “Yes!” She was tempted to say that she was a foreigner in a lot of other ways, but that was not the woman’s concern. Plus, it would lead to more questions she didn't feel like answering.
     The woman switched to English so fast that it jolted Biyu. She was getting a little bit to the other language but it was still a huge relief on her part.
      “It’s not a good time to be visiting Lhasa. You should be making your way to the Potala Palace.” The woman’s face looked especially drained when she said that, as her face lost all the little color it had left.
      Biyu’s body froze up and she took a deep breath and smiled. Whatever the problem was, she could work through it. It couldn't be worse than being in the present, where she would have been preparing for death to strike her and the rest of the world.
      “Why would I be going there?”
      “Are you dense?!” The woman rose up, her nose flaring. “Ever since they murdered the regent, those Tibets have gone mad. They’re trying to kill all of us! Can you see what they are doing to us? I can't watch and I can let Chen see it either. I'm just praying. I'm praying everyday that it should stop. I have to leave my home because of my family and my safety, because I’m afraid.” The woman fell down to the floor and her chest sucked in and out as she shed down ugly tears. “I can't find peace.”
     Biyu had felt that, the first time she discovered what was going to happen to earth. She remembered screaming when she heard and she pictured the moment after that when she was in her room, knocking down everything in her path, knowing she would be the only one who would survive. And even now, she wasn't surviving. She was just going back, avoiding the problem. She would still die like the rest of them, maybe not then, but eventually. But what could she do?
      The child, whom she figured was Chen, reached for her mother, doing her best to console her. She forced herself to come to terms with her new reality and took a gulp, with it swallowing all her worries. She knew she had no other choice. There was no other option for her. Biyu had jumped and there was no soft mattress for her to land on, only rocks less sharp than the ones she saw before.
      “I’m from the future,” she whispered, and they both looked up at her. She hated having to explain things, but she went through the motions, recounting the tales, reciting it just the way she had practiced it many times before. They listened to her, despite their problems, but she knew they may not have believed her. It could, to them, just as easily been some escapist tale to enchant them for a bit, but she said it anyway.
     In her mind, she laughed, and wished she was Korean.



November 02, 2016, 11:30:48 PM
Re: [NOV 2016] - 1750 - Discussion Thread Well, I've posted mine :)
November 02, 2016, 11:31:22 PM
Re: [DEC 2016] - Dragons! - Submission Thread For The Culture
726 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
The reservation, though it be my place of birth, has never felt like a home.

Mama says that I'm just confused, though she never sounds true when she says the words. She never looks happy either. Unlike me, she actually had a home before she was captured. I wish I could go and visit, but the humans won't ever allow us to leave.

There are other reasons too. Mama says that they would never accept me there, that I'm an outcast. Papi wouldn't be able to come too, but that's for other reasons. Mama doesn't seem to like him that much, so much so that she moved away from him, as far as she could, which is not that far—not on this dust-covered slate I’ve known all my life.

I feel strange; if Mama says I'm an outcast, then what exactly am I? Nobody seems to know the answer to that question, not even Nomo, and his Mama and Papi live together. He has a small semblance of a home, so he should be able to help me understand, but he’s just as muddled. Some days he embraces his dinosaur heritage, while other days he insists on using dragon genders. I just refer to him as Nomo, so I don't make any mistakes.

There was a time when Mama wanted to hurt herself. When the humans flogged her with the sharp whip—the one they specially made to hit the scaly dragons—she tried to get them to wrap it around her neck and strangle herself with it. They took her away for some time. I stayed with Papi then and asked him why Mama was so sad. He told me that it was hard to be away from home. When I asked why she hated him, he stopped talking. I don't think he'll ever answer that question.

Ma’s better now, but she still bites her tongue, making herself bleed every now and then. I try my best to keep watch over her, but it’s hard. I like it when she’s stable and strong and can take care of me, not the other way around. I don't do as good a job of caring as her.

Mama tells me that I have to learn how to roar in order to be a man, but breathing fire makes my throat burn. Pap thinks that I should be looking for food rather than breathing fire. Pa thinks it's just a way of boasting, comparing it to a peacock showing it’s feathers.  He doesn't understand its in relevance in dragon culture the way Mama taught me. He tells me that he used to be apart of the hooligans that harass the humans for extra meal during feeding time, but he settled down when I was born. He expects me to do the job now, but the fight for food is not something I want to be a part of. I’ve seen the bruises and broken bones and the blood. I tell him I’d rather starve, but he always laughs when I say it, explaining that I've not experienced true hunger yet.

I know it shouldn't be a question, but I don't know how I feel about the humans. I know that they captured Ma and Pa, and I do feel little bits of fire in my belly about that, as well as the fact that they are the reason why I was born on this stupid reservation, but I don't feel the amount of hatred that my parents do towards them—the only thing they both have in common. Mama calls the dragons that praise humans “instruments of colonial stupidity.” It makes me laugh each time she says it.

I'm afraid though, because every day someone tells me that I'm getting bigger, getting older. The people  always say it with such a warning in their voice, reminding me that the days of childhood are soon ending. The humans will soon pay special attention to the new breed and experiment on us, like they did the others. Maybe that's why the reservation can never be a home, because a place where there is no comfort can never be such.

My dreams alternate between being in Papi’s dinosaur clan and the dragon clan, but they always repeat the words:
Tainted blood.
Usually, after that, I wake up screaming.

December 11, 2016, 12:00:53 AM