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You're All Alone · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
#1 · 2
· · >>Griseus
Ahem. I have the vague feeling I’ll be alone for this round… :/
#2 ·
· · >>Monokeras

Indeed! Watch your back for things in the shadow!

#3 ·
Nine prompts to choose from. Yikes, how to decide?
#4 · 1
I wasn't expecting nine prompts, though. It would be nice to have nine entries…
#5 · 1
· · >>Griseus
Close the window, calm the light
And it will be all right
No need to bother now
Let it out, let it all begin...
#6 · 1

Are you sick and tired of bein' lied to?
Getting kinda bored of being ignored?
Can't find the tribe that you belong to?
Oh, my friend, you are not alone!

#7 · 2
Leave the World Behind, You're All Alone. When You Hear the Singing, You Will Know It Is Time.

The End Of The World -- And I'm Not Invited. Strange days have found us, Stalker. One More Try... Get Up Off Your Tail and Help Somebody.

The Last Thing Is Discovered.
#8 · 1
· · >>georg
I am in.
#9 · 1
· · >>KwirkyJ
>>GroaningGreyAgony As am I. Inept, incoherent, incompetent, all kinds of in. But at least I'm not all alone in the Monty Python way.

#10 · 1
You are a more dedicated writer than I. I killed every last one of my darlings... or at least could do nothing to save them from themselves.
#11 · 2
Ah, good, it looks like there are several entries. It turns out writing is fun after all.
#12 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
#13 · 1
>>Bad Horse
So Bad Horse, can we hope for one of your wonderful reviews this turn?
#14 · 2
· · >>Monokeras >>Heavy_Mole
Wait, does the timeline mean that writing is over? There was just one day for writing? WTF?
Roger, please change this. It's insulting to writers to allow 1 day to write a story and 5 days to draw a picture.
#15 · 2
· · >>Heavy_Mole
>>Bad Horse
Yes, minifics have always been only 24-hour writing, even back then.

Frankly, it could be extended to the whole weekend, but I don’t think stretching it thinner would help. One risk is that people stall on the idea stage, and later during the week find no time, or no energy, to go ahead and write it. For 750 words, the deadline must remain short, provided that we all know the entries are rough and need afterwork to be publishable.

I think you could set up your own rounds with your own timeline, I think. Roger can do that, if I’m not mistaken
#16 · 1
· · >>Monokeras >>Griseus
I am sensing a pattern here.
#17 · 1
#18 ·
Pattern in the stories or what?
#19 · 1
For me, one of the values of it is that it is an opportunity to make writing work with life. Unless one is a professional writer, energy has to be divided between this vocation and other obligations. Two to three pages in a day is a manageable challenge. Feedback is a bonus. And if you're used to working on long projects, it can be beneficial to have the whole process right in front of you in a distilled timeframe.

>>Bad Horse
I figured that drawing got more time because folks gotta read the stories first.
#20 · 1
I have arted. You're welcome.
#21 · 2
· on Frozen Potentials · >>GroaningGreyAgony
A few editing things and a fair amount of close word repetition. One thing that's a reflex to do in first-person stories is to start so many sentences with "I," so you have to take opportunities where you can to avoid that. Even if you mix it up well within paragraphs, you want to vary the paragraph starts as well. To that point, a reader can see at first glance that after your first paragraph, the next 3 all start with "I," which can set up a first impression that the whole story is going to be repetitive.

As to plot, there's an interesting bit of world-building. The instinct is to want to know how things got this way, but it's not essential to understanding the plot. You might put off some readers by not answering that, but that won't affect their understanding of the story. The only thing I'd say about the plot itself is that the ending doesn't come as a surprise, since it's broadcast well ahead of time. I did entertain the possibility that this would be the only person to make it all the way through. On the one hand, the descriptions of the frozen people do lend setting, as otherwise the appearance of this place would just be a blank slate, but on the other, it does inevitably point to how you'll end it. Just a suggestion, but maybe hold off saying that those people are frozen until right before the end. Go ahead and say what they're in the midst of doing, and the reader will imagine them as active, then spring it at the last moment that they're all motionless.
#22 · 2
· on 8 PM
A lot of this discussion goes over my head. I realize you don't have space to explain a lot of context in a minific, but then that also limits how esoteric you can get without really limiting your audience. For example, I have only a very basic idea of Kant, and I have no idea what Bhagavat Gita is. If they were just stray things to communicate "this guy is a scholar of philosophy," then fine, but in this case, I do feel like I'm missing something by not knowing.

I liked the discussion and Leopold's repeated invitations to interpret the painting, but I'm a little lost on the relationships described. Does Leopold live there? The fact that he owns a taxi business suggests that's why he's the narrator's ride, yet Leopold's reason for having time to kill makes it sound more like he's a traveler, since delayed flights shouldn't affect his taxi business much, unless it just means there's going to be a lack of fares for a while.

Maybe I'm just missing something. The last paragraph feels completely disconnected from the rest. The narrator's been trying to figure out this art, and I don't know what that has to to with the prompt (and personally I don't care much about obvious prompt relevance), leaving that last paragraph feeling like something tacked on to make it fit the theme. There'd been nothing about being alone before that, and it doesn't feel like a natural extension of their conversation. I like the way the rest of it flows, but that ending feels like a speed bump.
#23 · 1
· on It's Not Lupus
Yep, saw the ending coming as soon as he left the house.

A few editing things, but nothing major. I do think if you're going to do something nonstandard with a story, like the second-person narration, it's best to establish that in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence. As it is, there's a bit of a jolt when I've read through a couple of paragraphs of what seems to be third- (or possibly first-) person narration before I hit the first "you." Present tense is a bit nonstandard too, but you do establish that up front, as an example. Though that'd be a much harder thing to mask, if you were doing it intentionally.

Anyway, there's not really a plot here, as it's all about establishing an atmosphere, and it does that pretty well. It was definitely unsettling, and in that kind of story, escalation is important. You do that well, too, with things only slightly wrong at first, leading to more and more outlandish things going wrong. I would encourage you to go for all the senses, as that provides a more complete experience for horror or weird fiction. You're mostly focused on how things don't look right, and a little on sound, which are the two major ones that stories in general tackle, but add in how things don't quite smell, taste, or feel right, either. It can dramatically ramp up the atmosphere, and you were perfectly set up to do some of that with him eating dinner, but you let that opportunity slip by without making anything of it.

Very minor thing, but it had me wondering how many times he's been through this loop, since nothing's said about the car being low on gas, but a smart way to get around it would have it be an electric car that he plugs in upon arriving at the house each time.

And one last thing: what convinced him he was house-sitting? Maybe he actually was and the person who hired him has drawn him into a trap, intentionally or not. But something gave him that impression, so it would make sense to renew it at the end, where the pets greet him, and have him recall some vague memory of arriving there for that purpose.
#24 · 1
· on The Fallen · >>Monokeras
A creation story? The imagery is pretty good. I feel bad not writing as much about this one, but I don't have much to say. It does what it sets out to do fine, though the beginning may be overly long. Before the narrator separates from the rest, it goes on about the same things and doesn't develop the idea any more after the first couple of paragraphs. There could stand to be some rising tension there or doling out some new bits of information. It just starts out a little stagnant, and while I can see how that might be thematic, that's a really tough thing to do and keep it interesting. One example I use occasionally is that authors who write a character being bored are tempted to make the narration sound boring to get the reader into the character's experience of it, but then they have a boring story. They have to make boredom interesting. Not that your story is boring--it's too short to be boring, but you have to watch out for that kind of stagnation. A few typos, but nothing major.
#25 · 1
· on All Alone
I like the descriptions and imagery in this. One thing that may just be a mistaken impression on my part, but I always find it strange when warriors like this sound like they're well educated. It would depend on the kind of society they're from and what rank they are, I guess, but I just don't often expect a foot soldier to sound so highbrow.

As to the ending, it feels like a twist for the sake of a twist. It does surprise, which is the main goal of flash fiction, but it's not that he was tricked by the enemy that he'd been fighting, or that he missed the signs that he was in danger, or that it adds some new meaning to the story. It's just there to surprise, and that's it. He's even potentially in a position to defend himself, so the outcome isn't inevitable. It makes me wonder about the setting, too. Is he fighting far from home, such that he wouldn't know this forest had a reputation as dangerous?
#26 · 2
· on Preshrinked · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Cool interpretation of the art described in-story. This is pretty much how I envisioned it as well, and I like that the story described it in enough detail to get such a firm idea of it.
#27 · 2
· on Downlift · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Mm, god-snek in a pocket universe. I'm impressed with how realistic such a simple representation of the galaxies looks.
#28 · 2
· on The Old Same Place · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Their house is a museum when people come to see 'em.
#29 · 1
· on Solitude · >>GroaningGreyAgony
All the better to bite off the excess trailing bandage, my dear.
#30 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
Voting was pretty hard on the stories this round. There wasn't a significant difference from top to bottom on how much I liked them. If I came back a different day, I may well have voted them in a different order.
#31 · 2
· on It's Not Lupus · >>Pascoite
This is a fun story. There has already been a round which invited the contestants to write this sort of circular stories. I remember it clearly, because it was the round I wrote The Postman, which was my first Writeoff medal :) [and even Cassius loved that story.]

That being said, the setup is nice, and you do a good job of breathing in an eerie atmosphere, though we never know really why the decor seem to be slightly shifting, or why everything steadily moves out of place. Neither do we really know why the ‘you’ decides to stop at the first house it finds on their way, rather than pushing on further. But those are details.

The second person narrative threw me a bit off, because I can’t really identify with the narrator. Contrarily to Pasco, I have no qualms about the use of the present tense, which I think gives your story more presence. On the other hand the lonely line ‘Mystery and boredom’ sounded, well, out of place. I'd sooner you didn't put it there.

Barring that, quite enjoyable!
#32 · 1
· on All Alone
Ah well. Did you read the famous book by Bram Stocker? Because this woman resemble much one of the three brides of the count.

I agree with Pasco this warrior sounds a bit toffee-nosed. All the more than you describe what I'd think is a Barbarian (in a AD&D sense), which implies both some form of uncouth-ness and knowledge of forests.

Otherwise, there is little to say because there’s no real plot here, it’s just a scene, an encounter. The twist feels contrived, much like you felt you couldn't drag that dialogue much longer and you needed a clincher to conclude with a semi-shocking line.

You could’ve created some sort of plot around the same theme, like the warrior runs into a home where he finds that girl/woman who prepares him food, heals him, w/e. And then when night comes and the warrior goes to sleep morphs into some sort of demon. Anyway.
#33 · 1
· on 8 PM · >>Heavy_Mole
Per questa storia, mi chiedo veramente se devo scrivere il mio commento in inglese oppure se sono autorizzato a scriverlo in italiano. Ma visto che probabilmente nessuno qui parla italiano, proseguirò in inglese.

I agree with Pasco this fic feels somewhat disjointed. We don’t know much about the narrators, and why they end up in a museum. Frankly, there are so many other more exciting things to do in Italy than to look at massive paintings. I've lived there, so it’s from the horse's mouth :p

As I’m not a bumpkin like Pasco (:p) I know what the Bhagavad-Gîtâ is. I even have the book here on the table, bought at the time I'd decided to learn Sanskrit, something I finally ended up to renege on, given the lack of interest I developed for the ancient Hindu myths. I don’t care much about Krishna, karmas and the whole shebang. I feel more at ease with Plato, really.

That being said, the text is difficult to analyse because we don’t really know who the protagonist are, and what is at stake the behind the watching of the painting. Why are they where they are? What will happen next? Missing these fundamental points, the story lacks tension and we’re just watching the two guys from an outside point of view, as if we were just another visitor of the museum happening to stand just aside.

'The door of a coffin' is a strange metaphor. I'd rather use 'lid' here, but door has funny overtones, admittedly (like, I see a skeleton opening and shutting it every Saturday at midnight :p). But why would it have to be black?
#34 · 2
· on Frozen Potentials
Jumping into a black hole, eh?

There is one fundamental flaw with that sort of story. Since the narrator dies at the end, who is writing the story? There’s a non-sequitur in writing at the first person a story in which the protagonist does not survive.

Anyways, more tomorrow before the deadline. It’s getting late.

#35 · 1
· on It's Not Lupus · >>Monokeras
I didn't have an issue with the present tense. i was just saying that if you're going to do something nonstandard like second-person, then make it immediately clear that's what it is. And as present tense is somewhat nonstandard, then also make it clear up front that's what the story is using, but that one takes care of itself, since... well, try not to make it clear up front that it's in present tense. You'd have to write fragments that don't contain verbs. It'd have to be done very deliberately. It might even be an interesting exercise to write a present-tense story that masks as long as possible that it is present tense.
#36 · 1
I found that, on the contrary, they stood pretty much apart one from the other. :p
#37 · 1
· on It's Not Lupus
Indeed. That’s something I shall remember and try to implement in a future round!
And I apologise if I slightly distorted your comment.
#38 · 2
· on Frozen Potentials · >>GroaningGreyAgony
The idea here is fun, though we never come to know why people do commit suicide or what exactly has happened that led the void to gnaw at (what seems to be) Earth. Some sort of cosmic catastrophe? The Sun turning into a blackhole? A quantum experience that had run amok?

Or is it, as in the old movie Logan's Run, a form of control of the population, whereby anyone older than <x> has to walk deliberately into a disintegration machine of sorts and get killed for the sake of keeping the environmental footprint fairly constant?


The sort of museum you describe is fun though, and very much in line with what I’d expect it to be.

I’m a bit baffled by the obvious grit (spunk) of the narrator though. That’s not even a leap of faith here. They know they will die – well, to be honest we don’t know if they die, or if they’re just placed in a state of suspended animation, waiting to be later scooped out of the void. But they run to their (apparent) death with a very palpable levity, or nonchalance, that is somewhat baffling. I wish we could all turn death into some sort of merry, barmy experiment.

All in all, it’s a good idea. I’m a bit frowning at the use of the first person, and I think we ought to be given an explanation as to why is that happening. Barring these two minor gripes, it’s a great story.
#39 · 2
· on Preshrinked · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Cool! Pretty close to how I imagined it.
#40 · 1
· on 8 PM
To be fair, the guy/gal is not really Italian--they are from Maryland, a place not known for having an illustrious cultural heritage. It is a very "American" habit to claim ancestry in remote places, on scant evidence. It's not surprising they don't know what to do!

That's the background of this character. I just re-read this story after a week or so of having not looked at it. Leopold, it is true, could use a little more clarification. The point of Kant/the Gita/the Standard Model is that they are cosmological reference points, "outside" of the speaker, as it were. He/she is just trying to paste them over their experience, which is right in front of them.

I am disappointed you did not continue with Sanskrit, but I understand. One can only have so many branches growing, and learning a literary language is a big branch. It is interesting that you should contrast it with Plato, though, who, in my mind, reflects a definite deviation from the common source of the Vedic and 'Western' intellectual traditions. And, at the risk of sounding cheeky, that is just the kind of range I was aiming for, in the speaker's pastiche of thoughts.

It is a psychological play. The characters "need" each other--one is confident in the world, but can't make sense of what he sees when he steps back; the other squints, in a throw-over, and has no idea who they are. One asks, and asks; the other answers, but somehow they don't communicate.
#41 · 2
· on It's Not Lupus
I had fun reading this. Claustrophobic application of the second person. I had to re-read once before catching that the passage of time is the chief mechanic. I think the title refers to a meme, but I’m not familiar with it, so it detracts from a story which otherwise has nothing extraneous to it.
#42 · 2
· on All Alone
I have a small gripe with the simile, “as numerous as the grass, and as fast as rabbits”. Rabbits eat grass, so is the enemy enclave chasing down itself? I can put together the intended meaning, but the gap diminishes the clarity of the image and breaks immersion in your fantasy storytelling.
#43 · 2
· on The Fallen · >>Monokeras
This is a ‘metaphysical’ story. The trick with “thus and so” type elements in a narrative is that they do not sheen over what matters to the author—and I don’t have a sense of what that might be, here.
#44 · 2
· on Frozen Potentials · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Hmm, how would you frame a story like this, using the first person? I love the analogy between space travel and seeing people “embedded” in the surrounding air. But it doesn’t work out in the past tense, unless the speaker recovered their senses later and was merely interrupted in their reflections by a knock at the door. In the present tense, it might take the form of a journal entry or a radio transmission.
#45 · 1
· on The Fallen · >>Heavy_Mole
Thanks Pasco for your appreciation, and don’t feel bad! :)
What do you mean?
#46 · 1
· on The Fallen · >>Monokeras
Sorry for the late response.

I am re-reading this now. I am interested in the kind of antitheses you set up. They evoke philosophical musings for me. But I am not interested in the story for its own sake. I wonder how ideas like I and un-I relate to you. There is something there, I'm sure, otherwise they would not have come up. If they (these 'philosophic' elements) had more particularity, they might make me (as a reader) see in a different way. That would be cool. But right now it is all in a raw stage.
#47 · 2
· on The Fallen

Well, I mean it’s quite complicated. I tried to somehow ‘steep’ this small text into what's my personal vision of God, angels and heaven, the way they relate to each other, and how they’re out of time and space in realms that no one can really envision, and that God is not a distinct entity but a whole, and angels are part of him, all alike and yet distinct one from the other, but none is sapient of its own identity. If you have read Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’ (Il Nome della Rosa), there is a passage at the end which summarises it somewhat: ‘Gott ist ein lautes Nichts. Ihn rührt kein Nun oder Hier' (from memory).

Also, I have always thought about the creed whereby ‘God created man in His own image’. In this text, I was trying to elaborate on ‘The Devil created man in His own image’.

But yeah, that was quite a metaphysical text, and whereas I had the keys to understand it (obviously!), it was maybe too obscure for a third party reader without some further explanations.

Finally, and I won’t deny it, it was also an exercise in vocabulary and style.
#48 ·
· on Frozen Potentials · >>Monokeras
>>Pascoite, >>Monokeras, >>Heavy_Mole

Frozen Potentials

Getting sloppy with my retros; the author should explain. Thanks to everyone for the excellent comments and the silver.

I was in a somewhat dark state of the soul when this came to me. One might think of it as a metaphor for mortality, with people seeing what they can make of life before the inevitable end. Or, somewhat friendlier, it could represent the writing game and the public face you present with your accumulated art.

One little gimmick that I like to slip in occasionally; I referred to all of the submitted prompts within the body of the story. The extra constraints this imposes may help direct creativity, or simply trip up the process of telling a tale while snarling it in irrelevancies. This time it seemed to cause no harm; if no one noticed it, I probably hit the right balance.
#49 ·
· on Preshrinked
>>Pascoite, >>Heavy_Mole


When a story describes a work of art, the natural course is to try one's hand at it. Thanks to the comprehensive description of the author, I feel it turned out well. I printed out a trisected hexagon to make sure I got the angles right, but used no other guides.
#50 ·
· on Downlift


This one was a natural for drawing on black paper. I perhaps should have filled in more of the background at the top to make it glowier. I've been drawing a lot of stars this way for a while and am glad that the practice is showing positive results.
#51 ·
· on Solitude


A quick doodle finished with white correction pen and some colored pencil on black paper. The nose is awry and perhaps should be flipped in post production.
#52 ·
· on The Old Same Place

The Old Same Place

This house... is a real place.

As I grew up in northern New Jersey, I sometimes biked past an old abandoned Victorian house on an overgrown hill. To my young eye, it strongly resembled the Psycho house, and I dreamed of buying it and renovating it, a fancy that was never realized.

The house became a site for visiting bored teens to post random artwork on the walls, and was eventually torn down. It was featured in an article in Weird NJ magazine (19: 18p-22).

This blog post has one of the best pictures I've seen of it:

#53 ·
· on Frozen Potentials
It was a nice idea, really!