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    1. A thread for horrible puns

      By clicking this link and reading this topic, you find yourself under a grave and terrible thread. The only way to defend yourself here is to lower yourself to punitive measures, and engage in...

      By clicking this link and reading this topic, you find yourself under a grave and terrible thread. The only way to defend yourself here is to lower yourself to punitive measures, and engage in wordplay in mass corruption. All is fair in pun and warfare, but do remember your actions are your pwn, and that there are no winners here. Only broken arts, and shattered themes.

      (Just make puns.)

      15 votes
    2. Tom's Anti-Zen

      1. My Friend, the Moon When Tom was younger, he went to buy fresh bread every evening with his mother, Alice. They always walked and the bakery was far from home, so it was not uncommon for the...

      1. My Friend, the Moon

      When Tom was younger, he went to buy fresh bread every evening with his mother, Alice. They always walked and the bakery was far from home, so it was not uncommon for the Moon to come out along the way. "Hello, Mister Moon! Do you wanna come with us?", he liked to say. When they arrived at the bakery, he looked to his mother, excited, and said "Look ma! The Moon came with us!", and did the same when they got home.

      2. Fiction

      "Did you know that The Hulk was a detective once?", says Alice. Tom is 4. He puts his hand in the forehead in a gesture of superb irritation. "No, mom, this is make-believe!".

      3. Cookie Conundrum

      According to Tom, a mysterious group of sinister chipmunks was eating the cookies in the jar. When Alice asked for proof, Tom replied that a secret group of chipmunks got rid of all the evidence.

      4. Ice Cream Dilemma

      "So, mom, you have two options" — said Tom, seriously. "There are only two ice-cream flavors: chocolate and vanilla. Any choice is fine by me".

      5. Tom and the Rats

      Tom's house used to be infested with large disgusting rats. One day, he shouted: "Rats are the worse! No wonder we call them rats!

      6. Dream Logic

      Tom dreamed that his forehead could fly without him, leaving a hole in his head. When he woke up in the morning, there was a deer on the porch eating a hot-dog.

      4 votes
    3. The Horde

      Every day I wake up thinking that The Horde is not there anymore. The dreams are good but few, and only make everything worse. I usually dream about The Horde. During sleep, my breathing is...

      Every day I wake up thinking that The Horde is not there anymore. The dreams are good but few, and only make everything worse. I usually dream about The Horde. During sleep, my breathing is improved and more relaxed. I dream of a calendar without symbols.

      When there's an inspiration, so I write. Delete everything afterward. A professional told me that's is a compulsion. The compulsion for the perfect word removes me from language itself. The enjoyment comes from excising something from myself, which makes me feel a bit closer to perfection.

      Every once in awhile I forget The Horde is there. The writing becomes looser, I sip my coffee and take the lunch out of the freezer. The Horde is still there. The whistle makes my blood run cold.

      I forgot when The Horde arrived, but since then my days are covered of night and dust. To me, The Horde has no color, they're covered in filth and dark cloth. They get a bit closer by dawn. But The Horde never comes.

      They seem to enjoy tormenting me. Twice a crow's carcass hit my window. At least we were communicating. I had to open the window to clean the blood. The Horde did nothing. There's courtesy between me and The Horde. I never complain of their tiny advances, they never impale me alive and eat my viscera.

      The worst consequence of The Horde was to remove my visitors. I had friends and a girlfriend, before The Horde. They came here regularly. On the other hand, there's something cozy about being surrounded by The Horde. I'm never alone.

      I talked to them on a few occasions but never got an answer. I invited them to lunch and asked what they like The Walking Dead (seems like a relevant question for The Horde). Because, you see, The Horde may be savage, but they did not cut my internet. I keep telling everyone about The Horde, but no one believes me. They think I'm some internet phenomenon, an internal joke from a group they don't know about. They don't believe The Horde can come for them too, knocking on their armor of bronze and recycled aluminum.

      Sometimes The Horde's shrieks seem to gain shape and order as if they obeyed a hidden commander. But this doesn't last, and they soon resume their lurid racket.

      I don't know for how long I've lived with The Horde, nor for how long they'll stay. I'm afraid of waking up someday to find them gone. Because, in a certain way, I learned to love The Horde. I feel safe in their post-apocalyptic embrace.

      This morning they got closer than normal. I can see it better now. They all have the same face, they're both one and The Horde. Their mouths are frozen in a permanent smile, salivating like rabid animals. One more step. They look like neanderthals. The Horde approaches slowly, with steady paces, and arrive with the furor of the sound of metal and drums. The house is hit by numerous rocks — the roof is about to give in. My crumbled body will soon become an ensign for their future marches. Or maybe become mush after being punctured by one thousand spears.

      I'm only sure that this is going to end soon. Their petite steps, the threats, crows in the window. Everything is ending — finally, everything is ending. I'll never be again and so will The Horde. Nevermore.

      3 votes
    4. Swim only when the wave comes

      When I was young, I went into the ocean with my older cousin. He lived near the beach, while I merely knew how to swim. We went to the deep to catch some higher waves using our bodies (in Bahia we...

      When I was young, I went into the ocean with my older cousin. He lived near the beach, while I merely knew how to swim.

      We went to the deep to catch some higher waves using our bodies (in Bahia we call this "pegar jacaré", or "catch the alligator").

      When we got there, the wind stopped and the stream started pulling us away from the land. After a while, I was very scared and started swimming with all my strength in the opposite direction. But my efforts were much weaker than the stream, so I remained in the same position.

      Then my cousin told me: "@mrbig, stop swimming otherwise you'll get tired and drown. Wait for the wave to come. Only swim when it arrives."

      And so I did. Minutes later came the wave. I swam. And then another, and another after that. Little by little, by saving our energies and acting at the right times, we arrived at the shore.

      And that is the story.

      18 votes
    5. Let's write some Tom Swifties!

      If you're not familiar with them, a "Tom Swifty" is a punny sentence that involves a quote by a person named Tom which is the setup for landing a pun in the description of the quote's delivery...

      If you're not familiar with them, a "Tom Swifty" is a punny sentence that involves a quote by a person named Tom which is the setup for landing a pun in the description of the quote's delivery (often but not necessarily a single adverb).

      For example:

      "This water is freezing," Tom said icily.

      "I'm going to hit this piñata as hard as I can!" said Tom, bashfully.

      "Nevermore," Tom said ravenously.

      "I like tart fruits," said Tom with aplomb.

      Really good Tom Swifties are often not immediately obvious, have a fantastic setup, or are simply really clever (mine are alright, though it's certainly possible to do far better).

      You can get a more full picture and better examples from Wikipedia, but I encourage you to tread lightly there and in searches because it's way more fun to think of them and share them in threads like these than it is to pull up lists of them online. Just reading previously written ones kind of spoils the fun, IMO.

      Anyway, let's see what great Tom Swities we can write!

      17 votes
    6. Androcles and the Lion

      In a time of ancient legends, Androcles was a runaway slave. He took shelter in a cave where a wounded Lion lived. By removing a thorn from his paw Androcles cured the beast; The Lion was very...

      In a time of ancient legends, Androcles was a runaway slave.

      He took shelter in a cave where a wounded Lion lived.

      By removing a thorn from his paw Androcles cured the beast; The Lion was very pleased.

      And then The Lion ate Androcles because he was a fucking lion.

      5 votes
    7. The Egg

      Her eyes are fixed on the cooker. — Look. Points at the egg. — What? — Can’t you see? — Has it gone bad? She takes a deep breath. — I noticed the way you broke the shell, but I needed to confirm....

      Her eyes are fixed on the cooker.

      — Look.

      Points at the egg.

      — What?

      — Can’t you see?

      — Has it gone bad?

      She takes a deep breath.

      — I noticed the way you broke the shell, but I needed to confirm. Can you see how the yolk is soft yet whole, with a small cut in the lower portion slowly leaking a yellow thread at a regular pace?

      — Yes...

      — Don’t you get it?

      — No.

      — When the yolk leaks like that, it can only mean two things.

      She hesitates.

      — You’re either going to murder me...

      — What you’re talking about?

      — Or you’ll get a Ph.D. in Physics in 2035.

      — You’re kidding, right?

      — Nope.

      — You saw all that? On a fucking egg?

      — I knew you wouldn’t understand...

      — You were right.

      A second goes by. He cleans his throat, kinda embarrassed.

      — Honey?

      — Yeah, babe.

      — I’m terrible at physics.

      He holds a knife with a confused expression on his face.

      13 votes
    8. The Tower Card

      Please note, I am no writer of any kind. For some inexplicable reason I just had the desire to give it a go today. I hope someone out there finds some enjoyment in it. After David left I decided...

      Please note, I am no writer of any kind. For some inexplicable reason I just had the desire to give it a go today. I hope someone out there finds some enjoyment in it.

      After David left I decided I'd better make good on my promise and find a new place to live. The woman from the council said there might be a temporary property available. That someone had recently died at the retirement village outside of Holyhead.

      When I finished at school on Friday, I went to David's and gathered up what I thought was mine. As it turns out, almost everything was his. It wasn't long after we'd met that I moved in. It was gradual though. Bits and pieces brought over from mom's in bin bags tucked under the bus seats they save for people and their buggies. As the months rolled on there was less and less at mom's. I'd still visit on a Sunday for lunch but that was about it.

      I had this porcelain clock on the mantle at David's, two corgis sat either side of the clock face. David hated it. He had a thing for minimalist art and would order fake prints online. He liked Robert Ryman a lot. He thought my clock threw everything off. He'd often tell me how important it was to appreciate art but what he liked left me cold. I wrapped the clock in newspaper and tossed it into my backpack. I took a last look at the living room. It was something new now.

      When I got to the village it was raining. Cold droplets cascading down my jacket. I alternated hands, dropping each bin bag to the ground to rub the speckles from my glasses. In front of the bus stop there was a pathway that led to the complex, flanked on either side by imitation grass astro turf. Beyond that, two identical adjacent blocks. Rows stacked on top of one another like lego bricks.

      The woman at the council told me it was flat 2b, "the last flat on the ground floor". I searched for the receipt I'd scribbled the details on to check if I'd remembered it right. I hauled my bags over my shoulder and ran underneath the closest awning. I stared up at the sign fixed to the brick. 1a. I can wait here until the rain dies down, I thought.

      From across the yard a woman was sitting in a wheel chair, a mask attached to her face. An enormous tube jutting out from her mouth connected to a canister strapped to the side of her chair. She stared in my direction and didn't move. She's sitting next to 2b, she might be my neighbour, I thought. As the rain died down I walked over towards her. As I approached, I wasn't sure if she was going to take the mask off or not. What's wrong with her, I thought? "Hi, I'm Kate". I extended my hand and wondered if she could move her arms. She didn't reach back. "Mad weather isn't it?". She continued to stare. "I'm only staying for a month or so, I need my own place for a minute and it's all I could get you know? Not that I'm not grateful or anything". She continued to stare. "Ok, well, it was nice meeting you". I took out my key, opened the door and stood alone in the hallway.

      David and I usually ate together on Saturday mornings. He'd wake up later than I did and wander about the place yawning. He'd often glorify his exhaustion to me. Some invisible accomplishment he'd been gaining interest on since leaving uni.

      There wasn't a kettle in the new kitchen, but there was an electric hob. I poured water over the tea bag, into my cup and peered through the net curtains. The rain had settled and I could see the opposite house and the whole complex in the daylight now, some strange vortex, wholly enclosed. A village of it's own making.

      I put on my old slippers, took my cup and stepped out onto the concrete walkway. The woman from yesterday wasn't around now. I thought about knocking but decided against it. Either she couldn't talk or has seen so many people come and go, she doesn't go in for platitudes anymore. Pacing, I caught a glimpse of her kitchen. Pink lino on the floor, almost nothing out on the worktops. It looked unoccupied. I moved back to my half of the walkway and perched on the step to finish my tea. I should get started sorting what I have before Sunday rolls around, I thought. As I got up, I heard my neighbour careen around the corner, up over the astro turf and onto the walkway. She stopped before her door, I nodded and smiled. This time she nodded back in my direction. She then raised her hand and jostled the toggle on the arm rest. Her chair moved closer towards me. She raised her eyes to meet mine and looked back at my hands. She did this a second time. "I'm sorry, I don't understand". She repeated this a third time. I mumbled something and she reached out and opened up my right hand. She surveyed my palm, in all of its detail, looked back up at me and nodded again. "Sorry, can I help with something?". She shook her head, reversed and rolled up the ramp back into her flat.

      On Sunday morning I started sorting through the rest of the papers I threw into my bag at David's. Bank statements, a few receipts, junk mail. In amongst them I found a cinema ticket I'd kept from when we started dating. He asked me to go to see the first Terminator, "on the original reel", he said. I didn't much want to go and don't like violent films but thought it'd be a good excuse to get to know one another. We got pretty swept away with each other after that.

      I sorted through the rest hoping I'd find something else, but there was nothing. I stacked the ordered papers on the ground and went outside for a break. There wasn't anybody out, like the day before. After some time my neighbour's door opened. I stood up and checked to see if she needed any help. I found her raising her eyes to her forehead, motioning backwards. "Do you need some help?", she shook her head and motioned backwards with her eyes for a second time. She reversed the chair and gestured for me to come in. I stepped inside. She manoeuvred her wheelchair into the kitchen and positioned herself next to the dining room table. There was a chair opposite to her, so I sat too. "Is everything ok?", I asked. She nodded. "I hope you don't mind me asking, are you able to speak?". She stared at me and shook her head. After a few seconds passed she pointed to a badge on her cardigan. On a yellow background, in all black caps it read, "JANE". "I'm Kate, nice to meet you Jane". This time she extended her arm and we shook hands. "How long have you been here Jane?". She nodded 5 times. "Ah ok, and how do you like it? Do you have family that visit?". She shook her head. "Do you mind me asking, what's wrong with you? Shit sorry, umm, not like that, I mean, umm, are you sick?". She paused for a moment and nodded. She then reached into the pocket of her cardigan and pulled out a deck of cards.

      I don't know anything about Tarot, other than what you see on T.V but I'm not a superstitious like that. She laid the cards on the table in front of me, either nodding or shaking her head as she passed each of them one by one. The last card in the row showed a stone tower. She looked down, paused, raised her head, but this time, looked right past me. Dust cascaded through the shards of light piercing through the window. Jane starred into it for what felt like a whole minute. Watching the particles dance before her I asked, "Are you ok Jane?", she shook her head. "Is there something I can do?", she shook her ahead again. "I had better be going Jane, I meet my mom on a Sunday for lunch, please let me know if there's anything I can help with, OK? As I said yesterday, I won't be staying too long, but while I'm here, feel free to knock on". She nodded her head. I let myself out and left, the cards still strewn about the table.

      I didn't see Jane much after that afternoon and things went on as normal. David called and we hashed things out over the phone but we'd petered out long before that. The council explained I couldn't stay on at the village for another month so I moved back with mom. After a few weeks passed, one evening after work, I opened up my laptop and searched online for "Jane Tarot". Tons of results came up but only one from Holyhead. A local newspaper article with a headline that read, "LOCAL LADY FORESAW DIAGNOSIS". "I knew what was going to happen to me, the fibrosis I mean. The cards speak and I accept, I give myself up to that". I closed my laptop and looked outside into mom's garden. I thought about the tower card and how people do all sorts of things to justify their own lives, to deal with their own grief and make sense of things.

      Mom plants Floribunda's every year and they're starting to bloom now. My phone rings. I offer to cover a shift for a new temp at work. I put on my jacket, walk outside and think about Jane.

      13 votes
    9. My problem with writing

      You know what my problem is? When I was young, and I got into a game, book, or any kind of series, I eventually found myself spending hours on a wiki, reading manuals, books, and Internet posts,...

      You know what my problem is? When I was young, and I got into a game, book, or any kind of series, I eventually found myself spending hours on a wiki, reading manuals, books, and Internet posts, watching videos, trying to discover every last detail about the subject that I could find. I still distinctly remember reading about the Celestials from Star Wars, the Forerunners and the Precursors from Halo, or the distant continents of Akivir and others in Elder Scrolls.

      My problem is that I've always had this thirst to read about the worlds that I am interested in and to consume every last bit of knowledge about them.

      As a writer, or rather, when I try to write something, I far too often just have the urge to explain everything so the reader doesn't need to go to a wiki or watch a video to get the extra context. This means that, because of the way I engaged (and still engage) with worlds, I have a very hard time letting go of all the details and just letting what I write lead the reader's imagination into something of their own making.

      I shouldn't need, want, or try to explain that these aliens are strange and mysterious. The dialogue, thoughts, and actions of characters familiar to us should illustrate that just fine on their own.

      And that's it. That's exactly what I have trouble with. I struggle to communicate indirectly, to lead readers to a conclusion instead of plainly telling it to them.

      Oh god, I've done it again.

      13 votes
    10. Eclipse 2

      Logline During the 2017 Solar Eclipse, a thick-skinned female police officer must prevent millennial Shadows from returning from the depths of the Earth to dominate humanity. Notes Post 1 You can...

      Logline

      During the 2017 Solar Eclipse, a thick-skinned female police officer must prevent millennial Shadows from returning from the depths of the Earth to dominate humanity.

      Notes

      Post 1

      You can also read it in my blog (no advertising, no annoyances, no bullshit).

      - As before, this is not my first language. All criticism is extra welcomed
      - I included the previous content - the prelude - just because it's so small

      @cfabbro, here's the ping you requested! Love to know what you think of it!

      Prelude

      Before time was time, nights were dreamless. No one narrated the hunts, and death was just a cessation of the body. Births were joyful but meaningless. Statements were nothing more than intentions among roaring, shouts, and racket. Sometimes two sounds came together in funny ways, but meaning was still far away from our primitive cogitations.

      In these times of monotony, the Shadows entertained the primitive men. With no timbre or elocution, they came from the deepest layers of Earth’s mantle to tell stories under the moonlight. They lived in harmony, feeding on each other. The Shadows came to life with the laughter and the souls of the Men, and the Men lost the fear of the night with the histories told by the Shadows in a primitive symbiosis.

      One day, a man died after eating a tasty looking fruit. Hunting was a gamble, and eventually, men needed to eat potentially dangerous elements. Another, more intelligent man, noted that the juice from his mouth indelibly marked the rock with a pattern that was pleasant to the eyes. He collected more of that fruit, avoiding to put it in contact with sensible areas. This man did not have a proper name. None of them did. They just knew that there was “The Boss”, “The Hunter”, “The Large” and “The Delicate”.

      Some men had soft lumps in their chests and above the thighs. Eventually, their bellies got big and other men came out from them. “The Delicate”, who discovered painting, was of this kind. In secret, he drew their hunts in the cave. He made everything bigger and more menacing than it was: the spears, the beast, the joy, the moon, and the flames, that reached the sky.

      It took some gestures and vocalizations for The Delicate to make The Hunter understand that that set of traces was him and that the thick line with a pointing end penetrating The Beast was his spear. But soon they understood and had great silence. Followed by a great laugh.

      The Hunter imitated the muffled sound of the Beast’s steps and learned to use this sound to talk about the Beast even when it wasn't there. War shouts, death songs, the cutting of the meat, the crackle of the fire, the crickets, the frogs and all animals soon had their sounds, their own “words”.

      Men stories gained life by their own making.

      The Shadows never came back.

      Weakened, they returned to the depths. And, in the emptiness of their soulless existence, felt profound pain.

      Chapter 1

      Worn books on the balcony: The Physics of the Light, Introduction to Modern Physics and Modern Optics, paid with greasy notes. Stumbles on a rock, knock the books on the sidewalk. On a dark tunnel, fluorescent light flicker irregularly. Hands in his knees, catch his breath and run with the rest of his lungs.

      The front is completely black of smut. Turns the key with difficulty. The stairway creaks under his feet. A stack of old newspapers behind the door. Turns on a weak desk lamp. A crack of light comes from the sheets. Closes it with tremble hands and throws himself in the armchair. A thick cloud of smoke leaves Ernesto's relieved self.

      The curtain drops with a thud. Behind him, a dark silhouette smiles.


      The badge for the "Civilian Police of the State of São Paulo" swing above the toilet. In the ground, two pregnancy tests. Two lines in each. In the holster, a Taurus 38. Impeccable blue jeans. Mariana pees in the third test and waits. Two lines. She's fucking pregnant.


      Ernesto's suit seems expensive twenty-year ago. He looks like a bum that made an effort. He holds a thick notebook with paper falling from the edges and a paper folder that seems to be about to explode. Dries his eyes constantly, and there are black spots bellow his armpits. In the edge of the table, it reads: "Mariana Diniz – Commissioner of Police" Ernesto gives her his card: "Eye of Horus - Paranormal Investigations". Below, a stylized eye with Egyptian inspirations. And a landline.

      — I don't trust cellphones.

      Smiles uncomfortably, trying to hide the nervous tic that makes his head swing like a salamander.

      – It may not look, but I'm a busy woman.

      Gives her two 15x20 pictures. The first is completely out of focus. The second shows an oddly slim, dark silhouette on a sewer canal. Ernesto sweats like an amphibian having a panic attack.

      — For millennia, these creatures have been confined in the interior of the earth. Suffering the monotony of an incomplete existence. Waiting for a chance to come back.

      — Yes.

      – You don't believe.

      Puts the card in her wallet.

      – You got my number.


      The long hills do not affect Mariana. Sumptuous homes, beautiful landscaping, mutilation, and infanticide. They're all part of the same world.


      In a deserted square, eight hood teenagers assemble in a circle. Metal-heads and RPG players never caused her any trouble, but, as commissioner of that town, she has the duty of investigating anything out of the normal. She takes care to not flaunt the weapon.

      They ignore her. The kids emit no sound, make no gesture. They're not injured, and their dark eyes are probably contact lenses. They have an ironic smile in their faces. No drug would generate such severe catatonia on a group that size, and there was no law against looking spooky on public premises. Sent two patrol cars to watch the group and went home.


      The basic Chevrolet goes through the carefully constructed path, with exotic plants on both sides. Between two neoclassic towers, a slightly lower white house. In the living room, Eliza, short-exquisite-hair, beautiful and androgynous, stare at the TV with thick frame glasses. Notices Mariana's gun.

      — Comes with the job.

      In slow motion, a voluptuous Marilyn Monroe impersonator pours milk on a bowl of cereal.

      – Bruno?

      – Upstairs.

      A plate brakes in the kitchen. To the left of the sink, dozens of cups organized by color, size, and format. To the other, plastic utensils organized by function and material. Scapular in the neck, Sofia é very white. She wraps the glass in paper, writes "GLASS" in wide letters and ties everything in a thick, transparent plastic bag.

      – Your kitchen was too… Illogical.

      – Of course.

      Mariana notices a red spot below Sofia's long sleeve. She holds the arm of her friend: bruises.

      — They're old, diz Sofia.

      — Doesn't look like.

      Takes the car keys. The pregnancy tests are in the same pocket. Mariana takes a deep breath and looks at the stairways.


      Law books on the shelf, almost all sealed. Bruno is on the computer. It's hard to get why they're still married. Mariana has always been stubborn. He's on the computer most of the time. At 40, Mariana has silky black, perfumed hair. Tells good stories in a welcoming way. Mariana loves what the does. She's hit on constantly, by both sexes. And has a way to politely decline that doesn't make anyone uncomfortable.

      There's a month since they had sex.

      — I'm pregnant.

      — Are you sure?

      The tests in the keyboard.

      — They're from a pharmacy.

      — Yep. Three.

      She pulls the plug from the computer. Bruno looks at her. His eyes are black.

      6 votes
    11. Eclipse 1 - Prelude

      Before time was time, nights were dreamless. No one narrated the hunts, and death was just a cessation of the body. Births were joyful but meaningless. Statements were nothing more than intentions...

      Before time was time, nights were dreamless. No one narrated the hunts, and death was just a cessation of the body. Births were joyful but meaningless. Statements were nothing more than intentions among roaring, shouts, and racket. Sometimes two sounds came together in funny ways, but meaning was still far away from our primitive cogitations.

      In these times of monotony, the Shadows entertained the primitive men. With no timbre or elocution, they came from the deepest layers of Earth’s mantle to tell stories under the moonlight. They lived in harmony, feeding on each other. The Shadows came to life with the laughter and the souls of the Men, and the Men lost the fear of the night with the histories told by the Shadows in a primitive symbiosis.

      One day, a man died after eating a tasty looking fruit. Hunting was a gamble, and eventually, men needed to eat potentially dangerous elements. Another, more intelligent man, noted that the juice from his mouth indelibly marked the rock with a pattern that was pleasant to the eyes. He collected more of that fruit, avoiding to put it in contact with sensible areas. This man did not have a proper name. None of them did. They just knew that there was "The Boss", "The Hunter", "The Large" and "The Delicate".

      Some men had soft lumps in their chests and above the thighs. Eventually, their bellies got big and other men came out from them. "The Delicate", who discovered painting, was of this kind. In secret, he drew their hunts in the cave. He made everything bigger and more menacing than it was: the spears, the beast, the joy, the moon, and the flames, that reached the sky.

      It took some gestures and vocalizations for The Delicate to make The Hunter understand that that set of traces was him and that the thick line with a pointing end penetrating The Beast was his spear. But soon they understood and had great silence. Followed by a great laugh.

      The Hunter imitated the muffled sound of the Beast’s steps and learned to use this sound to talk about the Beast even when it wasn't there. War shouts, death songs, the cutting of the meat, the crackle of the fire, the crickets, the frogs and all animals soon had their sounds, their own "words".

      Men stories gained life by their own making.

      The Shadows never came back.

      Weakened, they returned to the depths. And, in the emptiness of their soulless existence, felt profound pain.

      8 votes
    12. Not Hungry

      Usually it's simple. You feel unhappy. And you feel hungry. There is a hole in your stomach. There is a hole in your soul. You fill the holes with burgers, and ramen, and shawarma, and fried...

      Usually it's simple. You feel unhappy. And you feel hungry. There is a hole in your stomach. There is a hole in your soul. You fill the holes with burgers, and ramen, and shawarma, and fried chicken. Then the holes are filled. Then the unhappiness turns into being not-unhappy. Being generally-content.

      You're such a good boy! You've finished everything on your plate! The plate that you've bought yourself! Using the money that you've made! Such a good boy!

      But what do you do if you are unhappy… and you don't want to eat? The realisation is horrifying. You thought that you have found a solution. A flawed solution, a patch, but a patch that always works, arteries be damned. Now it doesn't. You are unhappy. And unhungry. Oh no.

      Maybe switch from big nasty burgers to something like candy? Maybe this sweet exotic soda will help? A Japanese chewing gum? A Korean chocolate breadstick? It numbs the pain, but the pain is still there. That's when the desperation comes in. Will it ever end? Will it ever get better? Can the others help you? Can they even understand you? Are they even real people? Did they ever suffer? Do they know the pain?

      If you're lucky, then it's pretty dark already. Go home. Add way too much Mayonaise to your supper. Add too much sugar to your evening tea. Make yourself even more tired. Tired enough to sleep. Tired enough to hope, that tomorrow you'll be hungry again.

      15 votes
    13. National Poetry Writing Month!

      April is National Poetry Month. It's also National/Global Poetry Writing Month, where participants write a poem a day for every day in April. I'm doing it this year, and was wondering if any other...

      April is National Poetry Month. It's also National/Global Poetry Writing Month, where participants write a poem a day for every day in April. I'm doing it this year, and was wondering if any other tilderiños were as well. I'm a little late on the post, but there's still time to catch up!

      9 votes
    14. Looking for tips or best practices for stoking creativity

      So, a little background, my profession is technical writing. I want to write a novel but I'm struggling a little with getting the creative side of my brain going. Technical writing seems to...

      So, a little background, my profession is technical writing. I want to write a novel but I'm struggling a little with getting the creative side of my brain going. Technical writing seems to further inhibit my creativity with all its rules.

      I'm looking into local writers' workshops but they're all full at the moment. In the meantime, I was wondering if anyone here has any advice for exercises or things I could do to stimulate my creativity and free my mind from all the rules of technical writing. Thoughts?

      8 votes
    15. Workshop Wednesday II: we're back!

      Hey everyone, thanks to you who posted in the original Workshop Wednesday; I think it went really well! Here we are for week 2 (sorry it took me til noon, I was busy this morning!) Some questions:...

      Hey everyone, thanks to you who posted in the original Workshop Wednesday; I think it went really well! Here we are for week 2 (sorry it took me til noon, I was busy this morning!)

      Some questions:

      • do we need a new topic every week? Or will one be enough?
      • any other comments/suggestions?

      Please begin your comment with [META] to discuss these. Otherwise, I'll copy and paste the guidelines from last week.


      What's a workshop?

      Basically, a workshop is when you have a bunch of people with poems or stories they've written, and everyone gets together, reads everyone's work, and comments on it, sharing what they got out of it and what the author could do to improve the work for publication. I used to do a lot of them in college, and I've missed the dynamic since graduating. I thought others might also be interested, so here goes nothing.

      How this'll work (for now, anyway)

      Each week, I'll post a "Workshop Wednesday" post. If you have a poem or (short) story you'd like workshopped, post that as a top comment. Then, read others' top comments and reply with what works/doesn't work/questions you have/ideas you have for the piece that could make it better. If you post some writing, try to comment on at least two other people's pieces as well -- we're here to help each other improve.

      10 votes
    16. Workshop Wednesday: Post a poem/story/writing-thing and get feedback!

      So I was talking to @cadadr in this thread about starting a workshop on Tildes, and since today makes for an alliterative title, I thought I'd start one now. What's a workshop? Basically, a...

      So I was talking to @cadadr in this thread about starting a workshop on Tildes, and since today makes for an alliterative title, I thought I'd start one now.

      What's a workshop?

      Basically, a workshop is when you have a bunch of people with poems or stories they've written, and everyone gets together, reads everyone's work, and comments on it, sharing what they got out of it and what the author could do to improve the work for publication. I used to do a lot of them in college, and I've missed the dynamic since graduating. I thought others might also be interested, so here goes nothing.

      How this'll work (for now, anyway)

      Each week, I'll post a "Workshop Wednesday" post. If you have a poem or (short) story you'd like workshopped, post that as a top comment. Then, read others' top comments and reply with what works/doesn't work/questions you have/ideas you have for the piece that could make it better. If you post some writing, try to comment on at least two other people's pieces as well -- we're here to help each other improve.

      Going forward

      Since this is the first one, obviously we can change the format or do something else. Please start meta-discussions with the word [META] so that we know it's not a poem you're trying to workshop!

      I'm excited. Let's do this!

      20 votes
    17. Productive vs non-productive creativity

      I have a slight struggle that I wonder if anyone else can relate to. I'm a creative "type" in that both my job (scientist) and hobbies (many, over the years) require constant innovation, in...

      I have a slight struggle that I wonder if anyone else can relate to. I'm a creative "type" in that both my job (scientist) and hobbies (many, over the years) require constant innovation, in addition to the usual labor, to keep them going.

      I have a note/journal app where I store my ideas. Sometimes these are ideas with acute utility e.g. an experiment design that I can test out the next day at work or maybe an idea for a paper. Other ideas are what I would consider "highdeas" - insights or thoughts that seem amazing when you're stoned but after you sober up they're kind of nonsense. The former are productive and the latter are non-productive forms of creativity (barring any offshoots of the latter that prove useful later on).

      But then sometimes I get idea in-between. Say, an insight into how certain human behaviors are a certain way or maybe a rant on a topic/issue in my lab work that is interesting but not valuable enough to publish or bring up in a formal meeting. My question / discussion topic for you, is, what do you do with these sort of self-ascribed interesting ideas that have no immediate value? One option is to write them out on a forum, as I am currently doing, but I would end up writing all day. Does anyone else keep track of these? Do you schedule a follow-up with these intermediate ideas for future inspiration? I currently use Joplin which is great but I don't think there are any features to stimulate creativity in this manner.

      23 votes
    18. The Ceremony

      This is a short, experimental story I wrote. Hope it's interesting. As I opened my eyes the whirl of indistinction calmed and I was standing there in a room paneled in wood, rich and dark and...

      This is a short, experimental story I wrote. Hope it's interesting.


      As I opened my eyes the whirl of indistinction calmed and I was standing there in a room paneled in wood, rich and dark and polished slightly. It was time for the oath. She stood at her lectern with her book open in front of the priest, who turned to the needed page and bid her to sing, which she did, sweet and calm and certain, without dramatics or pomp. Why would she need it? It was what she was to do. She smiled, I think, her form was not clear except for the vague impression of her gently rounded cheeks and lips the color of a rose too pale a pink to be said red. And now the priest was across from me and my book opened to its song page. Seven squares, (or was it nine?), filled mid grey onto the paper ruled across with needle fine lines the color of rust. It was old, plainly, but still strong. I felt looking at the page a feeling I had never known, not quite joy or determination or happiness or fear but an immensity as if I had for a heart now an infinitely faceted gem in whose faces you could find any color if you would only let it catch the light. It was like madness melded together with a certainty so strong anything less than “it is” fails to reach it. I feared I could not voice it, and said as much to the priest. To point at the page and utter “Sing.” was his only response. And I did, tremulously and weakly, but I sang, and through it came a sweetness despite me. And it was done. Through the haze now I remember the ascent up the stairs and my body collapsing onto the white couch my head landing in her lap, and her final exclaim “_______! We are!”.

      5 votes
    19. Creative Process Discussion

      I'd love to hear about how you create your favorite works. Of anything. How did you write your best music? How did you create your favorite character in a story you wrote? Anything of the sort....

      I'd love to hear about how you create your favorite works. Of anything. How did you write your best music? How did you create your favorite character in a story you wrote? Anything of the sort.

      I'd love to hear all the different processes people have. It's really quite an interesting topic of discussion, for me.

      Personally, I grab a cup of coffee and listen to instrumental music (mostly avant-garde jazz [Coltrane, Washington, etc]) while creating the world of the story I'm writing. There's something very productive-feeling about being wired on caffeine while also having a constant noise in your ears. It's how I compose some of my better characters and settings.

      Due to my constant writer's block phenomenon, sometimes I'll smoke some pot to get past it. It's almost like phasing through a wall you can't jump over. There's something lifting about it.

      16 votes
    20. I hit the 100 pages milestone for my novel!

      I am super happy right now. For the past few years, I've taken on so many futile projects, dead ends, I've ripped things to shreds because I stopped liking them. Finally though, I am content with...

      I am super happy right now.

      For the past few years, I've taken on so many futile projects, dead ends, I've ripped things to shreds because I stopped liking them. Finally though, I am content with one of my creations and hit 100 pages, already reworked and refined! :)

      Sorry, but I'm super happy at the moment.

      32 votes
    21. Today's the first day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), is anyone else participating?

      For those that don't know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month of November. That translates to roughly 1,600...

      For those that don't know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month of November. That translates to roughly 1,600 words a day. More info on NaNoWriMo here.

      I first tried it two years ago though I fizzled out at around 10,000 words and moved on to another WIP. Last year I didn't formally participate though I made an effort to write something every day. Not sure about my word count.

      This year I'm doing a series of short stories in a shared setting since I've been doing more short form writing as of late and I've been mulling over the idea for a few weeks now. It's a nice way to experiment with different settings and themes within a "singular" work. I've made some notes on plot hooks, settings, characters, and ideas I wanted to explore, so it's only a matter of writing the stories now. Maybe I'll even share excerpts as I go along.

      So has anyone else made plans to do it this year?

      19 votes
    22. NaNoWriMo Starts Next Week! Who's Participating?

      This will be my third attempt over the last 5 years but it'll also be the first time I have real time to dedicate to actually doing this. I'm really, really excited. I have a Chromebook now so...

      This will be my third attempt over the last 5 years but it'll also be the first time I have real time to dedicate to actually doing this. I'm really, really excited.

      I have a Chromebook now so I'll likely be writing primarily on Google Docs. What are your writing plans? By hand? Scrivener?

      20 votes
    23. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is only two months away!

      Each November hundreds of thousands of writers attempt a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Results vary, but it's a ton of concentrated writing and storytelling practice and always a blast,...

      Each November hundreds of thousands of writers attempt a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Results vary, but it's a ton of concentrated writing and storytelling practice and always a blast, especially if you're in a region with meet-ups. More information at nanowrimo.org.

      Is anyone here participating? This will be my fourth year (after a good ten-year break) and my third as a Municipal Liaison (regional coordinator) setting up events in coffee shops and libraries. Are you already planning what you'll write, or just letting inspiration strike on the first? Any great tales from years past?

      15 votes
    24. Scourge (a Codex short story)

      I've seen the occasional poetry thread, but I thought I would post some more traditional writing. This short story is background lore for my ongoing web serial, Codex, which takes place a thousand...

      I've seen the occasional poetry thread, but I thought I would post some more traditional writing. This short story is background lore for my ongoing web serial, Codex, which takes place a thousand years after these events.


      The research team looked like ants in the scry-screen, crawling around the laboratory as they completed the ritual’s final steps. When the spell was powered on, it let out a brief flash of brilliant orange light that made Tarrel wince and shade his eyes. The ants milled about as if their hill had just been kicked over, swarming this way and that, huddling over the piece of enchanted metal.

      Tarrel stood up and left the viewing room. Renna looked up as he entered the laboratory and waved him over, a broad smile on her face. She held out her hand, offering him a bracelet made from some shiny metal; it looked like two flat chains had been woven together into a thin, knotted band. “Is that the eternium?” Tarrel asked. “Why a bracelet, and not a sword or spear?”

      Renna stepped away from the five other people as an argument developed over one of the experimental readings. “It’s a gift.” She gave him an impish grin. “You’re allowed to enjoy the fruits of your labor, you know.”

      The eternium was slick against his skin, as if it had been greased, and it had a mirror-perfect reflective surface that threw the bright overhead lights back into his eyes. He angled it away from him and stared at the gleaming metal, trying to dredge up the appropriate emotion, as if he could summon it into being by sheer willpower.

      Logically, it should have been easy -- he had all the pieces: a beautiful girlfriend (if occasionally annoying), a prestigious research position, and a talent for magic that made most other wizards look like fumbling idiots. And of course, he was a Raal, entitled to all the benefits that came with higher civilization: immortality (or a very long life anyway), near-absolute freedom to do as he pleased (as long as that didn’t impinge on others’ freedoms), safety (from physical harm). Any non-Raal would kill to be where he was, and it was a safe bet that most Raal who knew him were at least a little envious of his status. But happiness, like an improperly drawn ritual, refused to manifest… and all Tarrel could feel was a bleak sense of anticlimactic fatigue as he looked into the shiny mirrored surface.

      Renna moved closer and touched his arm. “Hey. What is it?”

      He forced a smile onto his face and slid the bracelet onto his wrist. “Nothing.” The rest of the team was gathered around an Aether screen. Part of Tarrel wanted to join them, plunge back into the soothing distraction of work, but all at once he couldn’t stand the thought of doing so. He turned back to Renna, forcing the words through numb lips. “Let’s go out together.”

      They could have taken a teleportation circle or a flier, but Tarrel wanted to walk so they strolled the floating streets of Ur-Dormoth together. It was nighttime, but the walkways were all lit with bright white mage-bulbs. Aircraft hummed overhead, like gigantic wingless insects, disappearing into the night as they left the city.

      “Ever been to a mite city?” Tarrel asked as they walked.

      “No.”

      “I have,” Tarrel said. He brooded for a moment, staring out at Ur-Dormoth, sprawled across the clouds like a tangled pile of glittering lace. “They’re cramped, and squalid, and they stink of death. It’s like being in a corpse.”

      Renna shrugged, seemingly unconcerned by the fate of however many millions of less fortunate people lived on the land below them. “Why do you bring it up?”

      “I don’t know,” Tarrel said. “Have you ever wanted something and really worked for it, only to find that once you had it, you didn’t want it anymore?”

      “I’m not sure I understand,” Renna said. “Why would you work for something you don’t want?”

      Tarrel sighed. “Never mind.”

      They went to the Eyrie, where Tarrel tried to look interested in the menu before giving up and ordering at random. The food arrived a few minutes later, looking decadent and delicious: creamy soup, flower-shaped pastries, a platter of fried onions. Tarrel ate mechanically, doing his best to appear as if he was enjoying it, but all he could think about was the emptiness he felt inside.

      “How’s the food?” Renna asked.

      Tarrel glanced at the pale white soup he was eating and tried to decide what to say. “It’s good.”

      Renna leaned back in her chair. “I knew you would like it.”

      “How long do you think it’ll be before we can start mass-producing the eternium?”

      Renna blinked, caught off guard by the sudden change in topic. “A few more weeks? Once we do, the applications are immense.” Her eyes were practically glowing with excitement. “What would it be like to live in a tower taller than the highest mountain?”

      Tarrel stirred his soup, wishing he could share her energetic happiness. “That’s a long way to fall.”

      Renna chuckled, a delicate sound like tinkling crystal chimes, and tossed her sleek white hair over her shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll have protective enchantments. It would be quite the scandal, to be the architect responsible for the first death in centuries.”

      “They don’t let you Merge,” Tarrel said, only half paying attention to the conversation.

      “What?”

      “Murder. If it’s deliberate, your thread is cut. No children.” Tarrel made a snipping motion with his free hand. “But if they think you meant to kill, then it’s a life for a life.”

      Renna stared at him. “How do you even know that?”

      Tarrel shrugged, already losing interest in the topic. “Memory spell.”

      “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

      “It’s too difficult to cast for most people,” Tarrel said. Though that would change, if he ever got the framework functioning.

      “What’s the framework?” Renna asked.

      Tarrel realized he had spoken out loud. “Just a project I’ve been working on. You speak a command, and the framework casts the appropriate spell for you. All the power of a ritual, none of the difficulty.”

      “That seems pretty useful. How’s it going?”

      Tarrel blinked, not sure if he had heard her correctly. “Useful?” His lips twisted. “Nobody else seems to think it would be.”

      “Are you serious? The applications for research alone would be immense. Imagine never having to cast another scrying spell.”

      “They said it would be too inconvenient, or that the magic would lack power, or any of a hundred other excuses.”

      Renna reached across the table and put her hand on his. “It sounds amazing to me.” Tarrel met her eyes, searching for any hint of insincerity, but all he found was honest admiration. “Can I see it?”

      Tarrel shifted in his seat and looked away. “I, uh, sort of abandoned it. Nobody seemed to want it and I ran into some thorny problems, so it seemed like I was just wasting my time.”

      “Well take it out of storage! Don’t worry about them, once they see what it can do they’ll all change their mind. Your legacy would be etched in the stone of history, right up there with Elmar the Great and the Risen Kings.”

      Renna frowned and held up a hand to forestall his reply. “One moment. Someone’s trying to talk to me on the Way.”

      Tarrel watched, but Renna’s expression gave away little. Half a minute passed before she finished. “What was it?” Tarrel asked.

      “The research lab.” Renna’s face twisted in disgust. “Apparently they decided to run another batch of eternium, but someone messed up one of the protective spells.”

      “Oh,” Tarrel said. He knew he ought to say something more, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to care about the fate of the researchers. If they couldn’t even cast a simple set of wards, they deserved what they got.

      “They’ll be fine,” Renna said, apparently mistaking his silence for concern. “At least as long as nobody screws up their healing magic too.” She hesitated, then stood up. “I’m sorry to cut this short, but I really ought to be there.”

      “It’s fine,” Tarrel said. “I’ll head back to my house. Maybe work on the framework some.”

      Renna smiled. “I still want to see it.”

      She walked over to the teleportation circle in the corner and activated it, vanishing with a soft pop. Tarrel was left in the deserted restaurant -- or not quite deserted. There was a man, washing the tables with a cloth. Tarrel watched him as he worked his way across the room, until he was near enough to talk to.

      “Why do you do that?” Tarrel asked.

      The man looked up. He had a rough, honest face. “Why not?”

      “You could let the golems do it. Or, if you wanted to make sure it was done properly, you could use magic. Why do it by hand?”

      “Sure. The golems would probably do it better than me, and a spell could do it faster and better. But that’s not the point. Haven’t you ever found pleasure in work?”

      Tarrel was on the point of saying no when he reconsidered, remembering all the times he had thrown himself head-on into inventing a new ritual or improving an old. “I suppose so. But my work isn’t something a golem can do and, when I’m done, I have something at the end.”

      The man chuckled. “And when I’m done wiping a table, I have a clean table.”

      “Only until someone comes in here and dirties it again,” Tarrel pointed out. He paused, struck by a sudden thought. Was that the problem, the reason for the hollowness all his achievements seemed to have? Even as one of the brightest researchers of the century, his name would inevitably be forgotten, in a hundred years, or a thousand, or ten thousand. But if he was able to create a new paradigm for magic… then he would be remembered.

      “If I’m still around, I’ll get to enjoy cleaning it again. If I’m not, well, like you said: the golems can do it better anyways.”

      Tarrel blinked, startled by the man’s voice. “Uh, right,” he said. He stood up. “I need to go.”

      He took the teleporter back to his house and went down to his private laboratory. White mage-bulbs flared on as he entered the spacious room, illuminating the Aether screen set into one wall and the stone floor, still etched with an old circle. He cleared it, resetting the solid granite slab to its original, perfectly smooth, state.

      Tarrel spent the rest of the night hunched over the Aether’s display, tweaking and changing the framework. Every so often, he would stand up and etch it into the granite floor with an eye-searing burst of brilliant orange light. Each time, the spell failed in a new, unexpected way, and Tarrel was sent back to the Aether to try to find the source of the problem.

      The days merged into weeks, which flowed into months. Tarrel enchanted himself with restorative spells so he didn’t have to eat or sleep. Such behavior was considered unhealthy by most people, but it wasn’t the first time Tarrel had lost himself to the grip of work, and he no longer cared if his friends whispered behind his back or shook his head when he wasn’t looking. Like Renna had said, they would change their mind soon enough.

      Renna knew enough to recognize the signs of Tarrel’s obsession, but she didn’t stop coming over to visit him. The door chimed regularly at noon every third day. They sat on one of Tarrel’s couches for ten or twenty minutes, talking until Tarrel could no longer keep himself away from the laboratory and made his excuses. For him, the time seemed one long hazy blur, interspersed only by slight, inching progress as obstacle after obstacle rose up to meet him and was defeated.

      Eight months later, Tarrel stood before the granite slab and powered up the latest spell. “Fire,” he said, envisioning the unlit torch in the corner igniting. He didn’t really expect anything to happen and was thus shocked when it erupted into orange flame. His hands trembled with excitement as he stood up and approached the crackling brand. Magic! By talking! At last, it was working.

      “Freeze,” Tarrel said. A chill swept over him as the torch’s flames guttered out. Water condensed on the blackened stump, then froze solid into a glittering sheen. A smile spread across his face and something warm and… happy rose inside him, like winter ice cracking and melting as summer approached. Renna’s words came back to him: Your legacy would be etched in the stone of history and he threw his head back, laughing.

      Further experimentation revealed that the framework had exceeded his wildest expectations. He refined the spell, reducing the energy it consumed and increasing its potency until at last, it was fit for use in a globalization ritual. Everyone in the world, if they had the basic training necessary to use magic at all, could now access the framework.

      Tarrel reached into the Way, calling for Renna. She responded at once, as if she had been waiting for him. What is it?

      Come to my house, Tarrel sent back. I have something to show you.

      He severed the telepathic link and stood up, unable to stop grinning. The eternium bracelet gleamed in the corner of the laboratory where he had tossed it and he went over and picked it up, turning it over in his hands. General Yenja had been excited about the eternium project. What would she think of the framework? But that was a matter for another time -- right now, he wanted to see Renna’s face when she saw what he had built. Tarrel slipped the bracelet onto his wrist and hurried up the stairs. Behind him, the mage-bulbs blinked out and the laboratory plunged into darkness.

      Renna knocked on the door several minutes later. Tarrel glanced at it. “Open the door,” he said.

      It swung aside, revealing a harried-looking Renna. “What is it?” she asked as she came inside.

      Tarrel grinned and pointed at a glass of water sitting on the table. “Watch this,” he said. “Freeze the water in that cup.”

      The surface of the water turned frosty and opaque, spreading downwards with a deep cracking sound. All at once, the glass shattered, spraying shards and chips everywhere. Tarrel jerked, surprised, then broke out into a laugh. “Sorry,” he said. “I should have been more specific in my wording.”

      Renna touched the solid cylinder of ice, setting it off into a lazy spin. It twirled across the table until Tarrel caught it with one hand. “How do you like it?” he said.

      “Impressive. Can I try?”

      “Sure. I put it in the Way, so you should be able to access it just by thinking about it.”

      Renna gestured at the ice in Tarrel’s hand. “Melt.”

      Nothing happened and Tarrel chuckled. “It takes some getting used to. Try starting to cast the spell normally, then use the framework.”

      “Melt.”

      This time, the frozen water turned warm and started to dissolve, gushing all over Tarrel’s hands. He tossed it back onto the table before it could soak his clothes. “Freeze.”

      Nothing happened and he gave Renna a rueful smile. “My mana cache is empty. I didn't even notice but I've been using the same one for all my research.”

      “Here.” Renna withdrew a fat diamond pendant from beneath her shirt and held it out to him. “Take mine.”

      “No,” Tarrel said. “I have a better idea.”

      He reached out with his mind, drawing on the inert mana present all around and concentrating a small amount of it, refining it into the potent stuff that was normally used for spells. Only a drop, just enough to kickstart the spell he had in mind. “Refine one nex’s worth of mana. Put it into my cache, then cast two copies of this spell, using mana from the cache.”

      It was the longest framework-boosted spell he had cast, but it went off without so much as a tug of mental effort. A thin trickle of mana pulsed through him, then died off as the spell became self-sustaining.

      “Did you just -- ”

      “That’s right,” Tarrel said. “I just revolutionized the mana collection industry.”

      Renna frowned. “Maybe you ought to slow down.”

      “Slow down? Why? I feel great.”

      “That’s because you’re using those invigoration spells.” Renna looked around. “Do you feel that?”

      It was an tingle, like an electric wind brushing over Tarrel’s skin. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the diamond cache, shielding his eyes as it began to glow an intense white. “Behold,” he said. “The future of the Raal.”

      Renna stared at the diamond. “That doesn’t look right. Your new spell -- ”

      “Not a new spell -- a new paradigm. For centuries, we have cast magic in essentially the same way. Spells have gotten better, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of researchers like you, but it’s time for something different. Instead of engaging in a mental wrestling match, we shall simply give an order as if the magic is a servant.”

      “Your refinement spell has a -- ”

      Tarrel slammed his fist on the table. “Shut up!” The framework turned his order from wish into reality and he felt a sudden spike of shame. Using magic on a fellow Raal? What was he doing? But she wouldn’t see. He continued in a calmer voice. “It’s people like you who delayed this project by almost fifteen years. All that time, wasted.”

      He felt the pulse of magic as Renna broke through the framework’s silencing spell. “Listen to me,” she said. The urgency in her tone gave Tarrel pause. “That diamond is about to overload. It’s the same mistake you made with the ice.”

      Tarrel glanced at the incandescent diamond cube, mentally going over the wording he had used with the super-refinement spell. The same mistake he had made with the ice? The air around him felt… thin and weak, while the space around the cube seemed to shimmer and warp. What was going on? And then he got it.

      He stared at Renna, horrified. “Quick. Give me your cache.”

      He began the transfer spell, reverting to the more familiar mental casting in the moment of crisis. It was still incomplete when the cube exploded with a chiming sound that reverberated through his bones. Pain stabbed up Tarrel’s hand and he screamed, flailing around and spraying blood from his two missing fingers. Threads of orange refined mana flickered all around him like a hazy fog and the room dissolved into panic as the magic ran wild.

      Renna’s hair stood straight up. She had time for a single terrified scream before lightning discharged from her body. Bolts radiated out in every direction, crackling and splitting the air apart, disintegrating her body into hot black flakes. Some of them landed on Tarrel’s face and he stumbled back, staring at the black scorch marks on the floor.

      Tarrel’s weight vanished all at once and he floated off the ground, crashing into the ceiling before gravity reasserted itself and threw him back to the floor. The awful ringing of the broken cube continued to echo through the room, growing in strength instead of fading. It tore through his head as he wrapped his ruined hand in his shirt and sprinted for the door -- only to have the space in front of him warp and elongate. The door receded away, until it was like he was looking down a long corridor.

      The first rips began to appear, fuelled by the still-continuing refinement spell as it pumped refined mana into the shards of the diamond cube. It was as if reality was a sheet of glass, fracturing and splitting. Black cracks shot through the room as the chiming hammered through Tarrel’s body. They began to glow, dim white at first, then growing in strength. They pulsed. Flickered. And as Tarrel’s hand reached for the door handle, they exploded.

      Pure, white light surged out into the city, spilling from the research laboratory where Tarrel had conducted his fatal experiments. People screamed and fled. Some tried to cast spells, only to have their magic go awry in a wash of strange effects. Teleportation spells transported heads without their bodies. Flight enchantments sent their users hurtling into buildings. Wards imploded, crushing that which they were meant to protect.

      Ur-Dormoth was just one city out of hundreds, but the Way, a global telepathic link which united all Raal, was irreversibly tainted. Less than a year passed before Tarrel’s name was forgotten, but in the end he got his wish: an eternal, undying legacy -- in the form of a vast, magical wasteland sprawling across a quarter of the continent.

      7 votes
    25. [writing challenge]: say nothing.

      hey everyone! i was sitting down to write some today, and i kept coming up with lines and lyrics that were great, but for absolute vapid-type songs (gucci gang type stuff hahaha). i thought it...

      hey everyone!

      i was sitting down to write some today, and i kept coming up with lines and lyrics that were great, but for absolute vapid-type songs (gucci gang type stuff hahaha).

      i thought it would make for a fun challenge. whether you want to write a short story, a poem, maybe a little stageplay script - what's the largest amount of words you can use to express absolutely nothing?

      whether it be something like the lyrics for lil pump's "D Rose" or something like the internet-famous article "The Rumor Come Out: Does Bruno Mars is Gay?"

      how long of a piece of writing can you make, whilst saying absolutely nothing?

      6 votes
    26. Out Here

      Space. Mankind’s last great mystery. Our modern day ‘Wild West’. What a privilege to be born during this golden age of space exploration, to have the chance to strike out and see a universe so...

      Space. Mankind’s last great mystery. Our modern day ‘Wild West’. What a privilege to be born during this golden age of space exploration, to have the chance to strike out and see a universe so full of absolutely nothing.

      There is nothing out here, there’s a reason it’s often referred to as a void. Okay, yes, the more astute members of you will point out space isn’t truly empty, planets and nebulas, and even us, the humans and our crafts. But for the sake of the scale upon which we view it, its empty.

      Just look at me, stuck out here, stranded, in dark space. For those of you still catching up on your terminology, that’s what we call the space in between galaxies. Yes, those galaxies, the big ones that contain untold numbers of stars. No, I don’t know how I got out here. If I did, I would have done something to reverse it.

      All I can tell you is that I’m out here with a busted ship that only has enough power for life support and basic functions. Ugh, I bet you the caravan has already made it to Port Dalle, and Swiv’s drinking that blasted sludge he wouldn’t shut up about. They’re probably raising a ruckus at the bar, starting brawls and revelries alike.

      And here I am, alone. Well, I have Ping. That’s what I call that eternal pinging. If you listen closely, you can hear it, every few seconds ever so faintly. Ping, ping. I can’t tell if the universe has given me company or is taunting me. My headache leans towards taunting.

      Ping.

      I tried turning it off, I really did. But I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It’s almost as if the entire ship resonates with the noise. It’s not a big ship, kinda, cozy. I think that’s the word. I have to duck down to pass through the doors. The bed’s a few inches too short. But I make do, plenty of room in the storage closet if I push the tools to the side. Well, I might have jettisoned them. But, hear me out! It’s not like I’d be able to use them anyway.

      ‘What are you doing on that blasted ship if you can’t fix it?’ You may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t supposed to break. I was only supposed to be here to press the on and off buttons.

      Ping.

      They just didn’t include any for that blasted noise. Maybe it’s coming from behind this service panel here, it seems to be louder in the bridge, if you could call this glassed in closet a bridge.

      Bang. Ow.

      Note to self: pulling on random panels is a bad idea.

      Ping.

      Yeah yeah, keep on pinging, you stupid pinging, thing, a-lator.

      Ping.

      That was not a request for you to ping more frequently!

      Ping.

      ...

      What did I do to deserve this? All I ever did was try to lead a semi-normal life. As normal a life being some intergalactic space trucker, shipper, can be. I payed taxes, obeyed the law mostly, didn’t cheat. I mean, I’m not a bad person. I didn’t do anything wrong! Or did I?

      I mean, there are several possibilities. Maybe one of the times a delivery was late it costed someone more then a few extra minutes of paperwork. Maybe I inadvertently stood in the wrong spot, ruining some poor tourists prized photo. Maybe I-

      Ping.

      Maybe I’m dead, and this is my eternal torture.

      Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t such a thing as fate or karma or metaphysical legacies. Maybe, this is just some freak thing that occurred because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time? How’s that sound? Must be hard imagining not having someone to blame for all the things that go wrong, huh? Well, I’ve been stuck here for who knows how long. No one’s coming. And there’s nothing wrong with the ship except some inexplicable power loss.

      Ping.

      Maybe whatever’s making that noise is the cause?

      Ping.

      Pong.

      How do you like dem apples, huh?... Well, I guess you like them. Seeing as you haven’t immediately thrown them back at me. Maybe this’ll keep me entertained for awhile, huh?

      Out here, you take whatever you can get to pass the time. There is literally nothing.

      I even look out at nothing. I mean, sure, I see some of the Milky Way nearby, as well as light clusters that are the other galaxies. But I’m so far off the beaten path that the ship’s computers don’t even register any gravitational pull, and they’re tuned for the center of the Milky Way to set a universal constant for direction. Uh, simple speak, the big thing at the center of our galaxy? That’s down.

      There’s some velocity. So the ship will drift for millions of years, preserved in the inky cold of this wonderful frontier, until it get’s close enough to, something, so it's pulled in and crashes or burns. What? It’s not like anyone will find it anytime soon.

      I suppose you can’t really see the futility of existence yet. Me? My days are numbered, and I’ve already run out of gum.

      Ping.

      Pong.

      Where was I? Right, existence. It’s a funny thing really. Out here, with nothing to do or see, you start to question if anything was really real. Everything turns into this far off dream, the distant past of another person. Here and now, its just you, and the void. Well, that, and the flimsy metal contraption keeping you safe from said void, but even that’s debatable.

      Isolation was the worst punishment we were able to come up with for criminals, after all.

      Eh. I’m waiting my time. You don’t want to hear a condemned man ramble on, or maybe you do, you sicko, you. You want stories, you want to hear the high flying adventures of traveling this wasteland. Tales of explorations and intrigue. Maybe even a little romance mixed in.

      There really aren’t any. Space is, well, space. Big, and-

      Ping.

      -empty, and boring. As for the people, well, the Captain Buck and his intrepid crew all work for the military. The only civilians that do this are either, criminals, insane, or desperate. And any combination of those.

      So there it is. The reality of this grand fantasy you’ve always held in your head-

      Ping.

      -laid bare at your very feet. Not very palatable, huh? Makes me think of that paste you get fed out here. Chemically infused with all the calories and nutrients you need to live. Tastes like they blended cardboard and water into sludge and called it food.

      That’s not even the worst example. There was this one time... one time that...

      Ping.

      Ah, thank you Ping. There was this one time a station had a rodent infestation. Nasty stuff. You know what they did with the buggers? (Not the Editor, Editor’s Note: Not actual bugs.) Used them for meat! You had rodent steaks, and ground rodent. Didn’t stay at that station for long.

      Oh, look. A red light is blinking. Must be time to party.

      Ping.

      Ping agrees it’s time to party. Where’d I put the people to party with? Oh yeah. They’re all back in inhabited space. C’est la vie.

      Vie la c’est? Why are you asking me?

      You know? I’ve done all the talking up until now. I think it’s your turn to tell me a little abut yourselves.

      Yeah?

      Really?

      No.

      Ping.

      Ping doesn’t believe it either. He’s even making this slight hissing noise. Just like a cat. Maybe Ping’s a cat that goes ping? Or a ping that cats?

      Having trouble understanding that one? Do what I do. Don’t.

      Stuff doesn’t have to make sense. I mean, does it make sense for some random guy to be stuck literally nowhere? No, it doesn’t. He should be back home wondering what dinner will consist of. Well, truthfully, I’d probably be stuck with the nutrient paste still.

      Ping.

      I agree Ping, that paste is a travesty and insult to the human palate. At least include something that gives it some flavor. Maybe lemon juice? And some water, and sugar. You know what? Take the nutrient paste out all together and give us lemon, water, and sugar. We had a name for that back home.... I can’t seem to...

      Ping.

      Oh, right! Lemonade. Life’s gift you didn’t ask for. Well, would you look at that? There some ice dust outside. Almost like some rock had a gas bubble inside and it leaked. There you have it folks, the lemonade for today; ice dust!

      You know, I’m getting kinda sleepy and light headed. I have been up for quite some time now. Why? Well, you and Ping are such good listeners, I couldn’t just walk away. No, it was my responsibility to entertain at the expense of my own health. I hope I did a good job, I don’t like to disappoint people. Only peaches disappoint, you expect them to be all flavorful, and they tase like the fruit has been soaking in water.

      Well, guess this is it for now. Nature calls, and I don’t think I’ll be awake for much longer without really going off my rocker.

      Ping.

      Yeah, good night Ping.

      Ping.

      ...

      Ping.

      7 votes
    27. I finally finished a novel.

      I've finally finished writing something. It's been about four years since I actually finished something nicely. I'm entering the editing phase, which generally takes longer... But I'm a bit...

      I've finally finished writing something. It's been about four years since I actually finished something nicely.

      I'm entering the editing phase, which generally takes longer... But I'm a bit excited.

      Hopefully this is an acceptable thing to talk about, and I'm going about things the right way.

      So... To spin off into discussion, here's two things:

      A part of the story:

      The ground rose up and struck Raul in the face.

      He blinked, stumbling backwards, seeing his master standing nearby.

      The old man was glaring, his hands clutched around a brightly coloured stone.

      Raul opened his mouth to question, but the old man was whisked away to a distance hillside, and the boy found himself tumbling head over heals backwards down a hillside.

      He scrambled onto his knees, staring as he found himself on the shore of the lighthouse.

      His master placed a solid hand on his shoulder, and muttered gibberish.

      Raul glanced up, but found himself staring at the light of the lighthouse.

      Spinning.

      A bright light, round and round.

      Lightning struck him, and Raul screamed, stumbling backwards.

      The rod lay in front of him.

      He tore his gaze away with effort, and saw his master, hands outstretched, the stone of red, gold and silver floating between them.

      Almost as astonishing, the stone was clean.

      A hammer hit him between the eyes.

      Raul found himself stumbling behind his father, watching as the old man struck stone, separated it, revealing the river of solid copper within it.

      "Boy!"

      I'm hoping I've got the grammar at least semi-right. My illness means I can forget words, or my brain can replace words at random with others that it thinks are related.

      Any guidance or critique is welcome. (I'd give a bigger quote... But this is probably more than enough to discuss.)

      The build script I'm using:

      #!/bin/sh
      
      set -e
      
      if [ -z "$1" ]; then
        echo 'Please provide an output file name.' >&2
        exit 1
      fi
      
      tmp=$(mktemp)
      
      echo 'Building...'
      
      cat title.txt > "$tmp"
      echo '' >> "$tmp"
      cat LICENSE.md >> "$tmp"
      echo '' >> "$tmp"
      cat Prologue.md >> "$tmp"
      
      for file in 0*.md; do
        echo '' >> "$tmp"
        cat "$file" >> "$tmp"
      done
      
      for file in 1*.md; do
        echo '' >> "$tmp"
        cat "$file" >> "$tmp"
      done
      
      echo 'Converting...'
      
      pandoc --toc "$tmp" -o "$1" 2>/dev/null
      
      rm "$tmp"
      
      echo 'Done'
      

      title.txt is basically just YAML markup for pandoc. The other files should be fairly obvious.

      I'm silencing pandoc's output, because I make use of a self-reference to add comments to the Markdown, that get killed by the parser and never make it to the output:

      [//]: # (This is a Markdown comment. Isn't that cool?)

      However, as all the references point to themselves, pandoc warns.

      I'm using pandoc this time around, because it produces fairly clean files. I've used GitBook and Calibre in the past, and though the ebooks they produce work and look okay, the amount of crazy markup they produce means the books lag on some ereaders.

      However, that does make a lot of back and forth. Building, checking output, rebuilding, etc.

      20 votes
    28. Interest in a weekly or biweekly writing prompt?

      One aspect of the Writing Prompts subreddit that frustrated me the most was that the submission that got the most responses was often the one that was submitted first. I found that in order to...

      One aspect of the Writing Prompts subreddit that frustrated me the most was that the submission that got the most responses was often the one that was submitted first. I found that in order to ensure that I got feedback and criticism, I often found myself rushing or submitting sloppy work so that I could submit first. Often times I would ignore prompts I liked because other posts had already taken off.

      I’d like to try something here that addresses some of those issues. I imagine it working like this:

      1. The first post would be a number of prompts that participants would choose from to be that week’s prompt.
      1. After a prompt is chosen, I wouldn’t accept submissions for one/two weeks to give people time to develop their ideas and submissions.
      1. A new post would be created for submissions for the past week’s prompt and providing a new list of potential prompts for the following week.
      1. Go to 2...

      So long as it is practical, I will read and provide feedback and constructive criticisms for every submission.

      I hope this encourages people to develop fledgling ideas as they have the time to let their ideas breathe and they have the promise of feedback at the end of it.

      Of course this isn’t meant to replace other casual writing prompts.

      Edit:

      For those interested a few questions:

      1. Is one week enough time to write?
      1. Would it be better for the writing time to include the weekend?
      1. Would you be okay with certain restrictions like 1,500 words? Is that too many words? Too few?

      Edit2:

      Okay, I'll try to set this up!

      Over the weekend I'll think up some prompts. Here's how I see it rolling out right now. Feel free to suggest other things as it's all fluid right now. I'm open to any and all suggestions.

      1. Monday, Aug 20, I'll post three or four prompts. I'll leave voting up to participants? Or maybe allow the whole Tildes community to vote on the kind of story or theme they would like to read (hopefully to bring writers more feedback)?
      1. Tuesday, Aug 21, I'll announce the weekly prompt. Remaining prompts with good support will be carried over to the following week? Remaining prompts with little support will be removed from the pool?
      1. The following Wednesday, Aug 29, I'll open a thread for the past week's submissions and post a pool of three or four prompts to choose from.

      Not sure how voting for prompts will work, I'm thinking of posting the possible prompts in the comments and using Tilde's voting system.

      17 votes
    29. I just finished writing a story for the first time in years.

      I just finished writing the first draft of a short story called "Thirteen Cuts", weighing in at 4,493 words. Dr. Gilbert Porter is a psychiatrist who must weigh his own conscience after a patient...

      I just finished writing the first draft of a short story called "Thirteen Cuts", weighing in at 4,493 words.

      Dr. Gilbert Porter is a psychiatrist who must weigh his own conscience after a patient has hasn't seen in months admits to having participated in the judicial murder of an person who was not guilty of the charges against him. Does Dr. Porter have what it takes to help see justice done?

      It's going to take some revision before it's ready for publication, though. I know shouldn't be this stoked about finishing a first draft, but it's the first time I've finished any sort of written fiction since I finished Silent Clarion in 2016. I just wanted to celebrate a little, and my wife's out of town.

      18 votes
    30. Tildes writing prompt week 2!

      You're home alone and watching TV. Yawning, you tilt your head to loosen up the knots in your neck and out of the corner of your eye see a dark, fast, blur. When you focus on that spot, you can't...

      You're home alone and watching TV. Yawning, you tilt your head to loosen up the knots in your neck and out of the corner of your eye see a dark, fast, blur. When you focus on that spot, you can't see anything, so you turn back and continue watching. It happens again during a blink, but as you turn your head you almost catch it. Another round of this and you are positive you aren't going crazy, so you blink but turn your head as you open your eyes.

      Shout-out to Mozzribo for the idea. I hope this is inspiring enough to the writers out there! If anyone is interested in doing a prompt next week just say so in the comments. Thanks everyone!

      14 votes