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It's a Long Way Down · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
In Viscera
The last time I saw my momma, she was lying in a bed in a mental hospital up in the Oculus, shitting herself and yelling at me that the walls have ears.

This would probably be pretty concerning if it was anyone else’s mom, but this one in particular is something special. This is my mom. She had it pretty bad from the get-go.

Back in ‘47, when we first came to Viscera, there was my dad, my momma, and then there was little me tagging along with them. We didn’t have shit – or at least nothing that made us special. No biology or medicine or chemistry or whatever degree, so the Brainers didn’t want us. Weren’t in the military, so Security just waved us on past the Pearly Gates, the military checkpoint built inside Viscera’s monolithic teeth, as if we weren’t even there.

So we got sent down the Tube with the rest of the Meatheads, to mine meat and bone for the Effort.

My dad was big, though, and he was calm, and he was dependable. People looked up to my dad. After a little while he was basically the leader of our little group, and then after we’d set the bones and the haemoglobes in place and had a little village on our hands, he ended up being basically the mayor of the thing.

My dad was also really good at doing the important stuff first. Mom, on the other hand, just couldn’t accept that she was living in a world made out of blood and bone and fleshy bits. Made her go crazy.

Didn’t really get any better after my dad disappeared. Not for me, not for her, not for anyone.

The difference is, everyone else moved on, while my momma just moved up, and now she lives in the eye, in a tiny man-made room in a giant eyesocket where the Brainers can, well, keep an eye on her. Rather them than me.

“I miss you, Skye,” Momma said, staring at the ceiling blankly. It made me jump – she’d gone totally silent for, like, a whole minute before this. “I miss you, sky.”

“I’m right here, mom, don’t you worry,” I said, trying to sound positive, and probably failing.

Momma didn’t seem to notice.

There was a knock on the door. I glanced at my mom, then cranked up the dial on the bone radio by the bed, which had been painted gray for obvious reasons. Static-y showtunes started squeezing out of the speakers. “Here, listen to this while I get that.”

It was Ego. He was standing there in a labcoat made out of skin with a kinda sad, kinda smile-y, overall stupid look on his face. “Hey.”

“Hey,” I responded, “Time for her meds?”

Ego didn’t say anything, but he held up a little plastic container in his pale, bony fingers and rattled it. Then he went over to the bed.

“Mrs Blue?” He began, trying for a smile. “It’s time for your medicine. Remember: these are not going to really improve your mental condition – in fact, they won’t even really do anything except make it easier for you to sleep. Side effects may include: nausea, diarrhea, headaches…” And on and on he went. He had to speak a bit louder as he went because the showtunes had given way to some really loud, chaotic jazz.

I just shook my head. Who the fuck even made Ego a psychiatrist? Sure, he had a degree in that kind of shit, but that degree came from some place in the Outside that seems to just hand those things out like confetti. Heck, I don’t even know what a degree does, but it sure made Ego feel good about himself.

Maybe Ego’s degree isn’t the problem, though, ‘cause sometimes I think the people born in Viscera are really the sane ones. I mean, the only two people I know who weren’t are Ego and my momma, and neither of them are really, like, good examples of sane. Right now, Ego is telling his patient exactly all the things they probably wouldn’t want to hear without a care in the world, like a stupid person might, and Ego is definitely not that.

People like me have been here all our lives, and never once have I believed that the walls have ears. I mean, sure, it was in the realm of possibility. But I think Viscera would have more important things on her mind if that were the case.

Something like the giant nuclear fuckhole in her brain, for one.

Ego finished reciting all the horrible things that my mother’s medicine can do to her, then looked at me and let his fake-ass grin slide off his face like flesh from bone. “Let’s go outside,” he said.

“Alright,” I said, kind of expecting this. Ego always had something to say about me, or my momma, or my life. Or himself. Mostly himself. I opened the door for him to go through, then closed the door behind us. My momma had fallen into an uneasy sleep. Good for her.

The Oculus is an interesting place. The entirety of the socket is like a spider web of wires and cables and lifts and all sorts. The pale orbs of bone that form the majority of the Brainers’ dwellings float, suspended by the web and the membrane of the eye.

When the Outlight shines through the half-lidded eye from the outside, the entirety of the Oculus is lit up in the oily iridescent glow of the membranous wall, like a kaleidoscope. Looking at it makes me think I’m looking at some portal into the future, or a window looking out on some alien world.

And maybe it is, as far as I’m concerned.

That’s a sentiment I’ve always wanted to share with my mother, but life’s difficult enough for her anyway, and I’m not that cruel.

Only cruel enough to not put her out of her misery.

Ego and I didn’t say anything for a little while. I was actually happy with the silence, it was almost companionable, but then Ego said, “You should stay here.”

I snapped my head around to look at him. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“No, I’m not going to do that, Ego.”



“You’re being evasive.”

“You’re being an idiot.”

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“You’re being a pain.”

“Please, Skye.” Ego was a compulsive fidgeter even at the best of times. Right now, with me glaring daggers at him, he looked as if he was going to pick himself apart. “Tell me what the problem is. We can fix it.”

“I’m not one of your fucking patients, Ego.” I didn’t intend to shout, but I did anyway. It felt like a release. That day had been particularly shitty, and Ego was always like this, trying to trot around the problem, try to make me feel bad for his stupid issues.

Ego didn’t say anything for a while. I didn’t want to look at him, just stared out at the weird, oily Outlight, the fluttering of people in white as they went about their business.

After a bit, Ego began to speak again: “You keep on coming up here to see Mrs Blue. Why not just–”

“Move in with you?”

Ego paused. “Well. It would be convenient. You could visit Mrs Blue anytime you wanted. You wouldn’t have to live down in the…” he said, trailing off. He looked… embarrassed? Which is something Ego wasn’t really capable of feeling, or at least that’s what I thought.

“Meat,” I finished.

“Well, yes.”

“Ego, you’re my mother’s brain doctor–”

“Psychiatrist. A brain doctor would be more like a neurosurgeon or–”

“We’re not friends. We’re barely even colleagues.” Ego’s face didn’t have much capacity for emotion, but he seemed to recede away from my words as if I was physically attacking him. It felt cruel. But I am cruel. “So no. I’m a Meathead. I stay down in the muck so you and your weirdo friends can stay up here in your squeaky clean eyeball houses and stare at the brain of a giant, dead monster.”

Ego just kind of stood there. I began to say something else, but then I just went back inside to grab my things.

I thought my momma was sleeping, but when I went to close the door, I stopped when I saw her looking right at me.

She said, “I can hear it. I hear it always, but it’s getting louder, Skye. Help me.” Then her head flopped back onto her pillow, and she started staring at the ceiling again.

As I followed Ego out of the building, I heard my mother begin to say, “Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum,” in a monotone voice, without faltering, until eventually her voice faded with distance.

She disappeared from her bed the day after. No-one ever saw her leave.

The world actually only sort-of ended back in ‘45, when Viscera burst out of the Pacific Ocean and started tearing the world a new asshole. Maybe if Viscera had shown up a year or so earlier, when the world wasn’t in the midst of a huge war, it would have been a more complete ending.

As it was, the United States only allowed her to hang around for as long as it took them to fire an atom bomb into her brain. Viscera’s body collapsed onto the West Coast, breaking her ribs after trailing blood across half a world, before her heart stopped beating and she died.

I’m not really sure what happened in the couple of years between Viscera’s fall and her subsequent colonisation. A lot of waiting, maybe, a lot of living and dying in fear of the giant thing that stretched all the way from the bottom of the sea to the roof of the sky, scraping the clouds and bleeding glowing ichor onto a continent.

Whatever the case, at some point people realised that they can’t just sit and wait for the giant dead thing to just disappear as quickly as it showed up. So they sent scientists, people who know stuff, to figure out what the fuck was going on with it.

And they realised that, while the land may be dying, the atmosphere inside the creature was clean. Breathable, even. And that the flesh was quite consumable by humans. And the glowing red ichor was very useful as a light source, and… And so it went on and on and on.

It was like a giant cornucopia of breakthroughs. The whole thing didn’t make sense, as far as people back then understood what things were and what sense is.

So, in the year of 1947, the government sent more scientists. And the military. And told them to colonise a monster, while the rest of the world licked its wounds.

That was around thirty years ago.

I lived in my dad’s old house – a squat, practical thing he built out of bone he mined himself from the Boneyards down in the ribs. It was nestled in the muscle walls of the Tube, carved into the flesh and held there with repurposed tendons and ligaments and a couple of metal cables from the Outside for good measure.

It was a nice home. Probably the best you can get down in the meat. But I didn’t really take the time to appreciate that like I normally did. I was up and alive and tense, thinking about my momma, wondering where she could have gone. But I knew. Even back then, I knew, but I didn’t really want to think about it.

The thing I thought about most, in reality, was probably just Ego. I didn’t really expect him to even show up. Actually, well, I did. But he shouldn’t. I wouldn’t have, if I was him.

But I needed him. I really did need him this time.

It was after thinking that I stopped pacing back and forth inside the confines of my dad’s house, went to the door, and crawled down the flesh wall onto the floor of the Tube.

Down the Tube, there’s a river of blood. That’s the long and short of it. There’s just a lot of blood in Viscera in general, and even after all this time it remains the same glowing, water-like liquid. The composition of it, according to the Brainers, is nothing like regular blood, but this holds true for a lot of Viscera’s… viscera.

But this river is special, because it has a rather strong current, and if you know what you’re doing, you can get into all sorts of interesting places using it, and much quicker than by climbing and squeezing like you normally have to. I think what was most intriguing to me about Viscera’s ichor wasn’t really the glow, or the convenience, but the smell – like a pungent flower instead of the copper of my own mundane, human, non-glowing blood.

The red light of Viscera’s shone across the sleek, scaly surface of my metabolic suit as I walked over to a large tear in the flesh of the muscle wall, revealing a series of giant, exposed nerves, like the circuitry in the device that I pulled from my belt. The device was a simple thing, with a voltmeter, a switch, and two large prongs on the end.

I stepped over to the nerves, dug the prongs of my spasmometer into the wall, and began flicking it on and off.

The muscles began to flex, shifting and contracting and making the Tube around me move. Creating contractions can be dangerous if you’re overzealous, but not with a handheld one like I was using. I was providing enough stimulation that, inevitably, at the furthest end of the tube, the Brainers would see a particular morse message for a particular psychiatrist, and that psychiatrist would come running.

It took quite a while for Ego to show up, but I could hardly fault him for that. I hadn’t exactly given him advanced warning for it. But show up he did, trudging with wet footsteps along the pink-ish floor of the Tube towards me. He was already suited up in his own metabolic suit, hood pulled up over his head, with the twin crystalline lenses of his rebreather covering his eyes, making him look like a bizarre humanoid insect.

As he got closer, he began to fiddle with his mask, and then a voice buzzed through the silence. “Skye?”

“Yeah,” I said. “In the flesh.”

Ego just stood there, hand to his mic, debating what to say, his speakers picking up his breathing and painting it in static. “I’m sorry,” he said, eventually.

“Don’t be stupid,” I told him. I turned towards the blood river and began pulling up my hood and putting on my mask. “It wasn’t your fault.”


“And I know where she is now.”

“You’re sure?”

I paused. “Yeah, sort of. I have a hunch, anyway.” I clamped my rebreather into place over my mouth, began breathing in air as it was filtered through the device. It tasted different, in a way that was uncomfortably unfamiliar. It tasted wrong, but maybe I was just too used to the smell of Viscera’s internals, of the scent of wet meat and sickly sweet blood.

“Are you sure about this?” Ego asked, stepping up beside me. We both stared down into the flowing red river below us.

“No,” I said, and we both dropped in.

I remember thinking, as we were whisked away by the current, that, really, I hadn’t been lying to Ego. I really did have a hunch.

But it was a bit more than that. I felt it in my bones. I could feel my momma drifting away from me, crawling down into Viscera’s gut, where my daddy disappeared a decade past.

And she was pulling me with her.

Neither of us really knew how long we had been travelling for. Ego might have been able to figure it out, knowing him, but we hadn’t really had the chance to stop and really take the time to think. The river carried us at a reasonable, yet insistent pace, and I had to stay on the ball if we wanted to maintain course for the Gut.

Or at least, I think it was the Gut. Honestly, I wasn’t sure exactly where I was taking us. But it was the right direction, anyway.

Beyond just the practicality of the thing, though, time was never an important part of life inside Viscera. At least, not down in the meat, where the world is always lit up in shades of luminescent red. It’s probably different up at the Pearly Gates, and Oculus too, where the Outlight shines in and out by day and night, and the movement of the distant stars that poke through between the enormous, jagged teeth, or the otherworldly shine of the light inside Viscera’s eye.

In the meat, who gives a shit? You sleep when you need to. Viscera’s flesh has existed for thirty years, and has yet to rot in any noticeable way, although maybe it’s different on the Outside, with the torn flesh exposed to the sun and the land and the elements.

As Ego and I drift through the blood, we sometimes find time to chatter about whatever thought struck us at that moment.

We hit our first major crisis while Ego was telling me about the Outside.

“Did you know that they managed to put a man into space last month?”

“They did?” I replied, interested. I knew what space was, sort of – at some point, the sky ended, and then there was only blackness and the stars; I’d seen hints of it when in the Gates at night – but I didn’t know it was a thing that people could really go to. “How’d it go?”

“Pretty good. Well. To be honest, it wasn’t really space, but it was certainly in the atmosphere. Above the clouds.”


“On Viscera’s back.”

Ego said it as if it was meant to be some real ground-breaking piece of information, and went quiet as if to let me stew over it.

“How’d they manage it?” I eventually asked.

“They built a rocket,” he explained, “with engines powerful enough to escape enough of Earth’s gravity for them to land on the back. There’s no oxygen up that high, but metabolic suits are capable of producing their own when put into a near-vacuum. The adaptive ability of Viscera’s stem cells are beyond what we could have imagined, it turns out.”

He went on to explain more of the minutiae of the operation, in snatches and bursts as we drifted over and under the surface of the river, but mostly I ignored him. I daydreamed of a man in a suit made out of skin and stem cells, climbing up Viscera’s side hand over foot, until he was amongst the stars.

Then I heard Ego scream, and I surfaced long enough to glance back at him.

There was a figure standing in the shallow edges of the river, buckled over. I thought it was Ego, for a second, until I saw the figure wrench Ego free of the current, bring back their arm, and smash him in the jaw.

I clambered for the edge of the river, yanked myself out, and began sprinting over to help. Ego shouted again, lashed out with his fist, caught the figure in his jaw, making them stumble back and release their grip.

Seeing my chance, I ducked my head and tackled the figure to the wet, bloody, fleshy ground, then clambered on top of them. What I saw when I looked at their face made me freeze.

It might have been human, once, a female one at that. But the similarities ended at the yellow, pupil-less eyes, glowing orange in the light, and the strange, fleshy tendrils that crawled from beneath a tattered, ruined shirt and along their neck and across their face.

It held no expression, even as it swung an arm with surprising speed, colliding with my head and sending me sprawling.

“Skye!” Ego yelled, sounding desperate. Poor sod was out of his depth.

So was I. “Ego, get back!” I grabbed the knife I kept in my belt – you always needed something sharp on hand, when cutting your way through Viscera – and slashed out at the thing, cutting a deep gash across its chest.

No expression.

It charged at me, grabbed me around the waist and tried to push me down, but this time I was ready, and despite its appearance it had all the athleticism of a starved and desperate human. I held it still long enough to bury my knife in the back of its neck, saw glowing blood pulse from it, once, twice, before I pulled the blade out and kicked the creature into the river.

It drifted away, around a corner, and then it was out of sight.

Ego and I stood there, for a while, hands on knees, panting. It took a few moments for us to even be able to look each other in the face. Both of us knew we were thinking the same thing:

What the fuck was that?



“We need to go back.”


“We need to go back right now.”



I pointed. “Turn around.”

He turned.

The vein we were travelling in was far, far smaller than the Tube. There was only barely enough room to fit maybe four people in side-by-side. But that didn’t stop the dozen or so people-creatures from pressing against one another as they skulked towards us.

“Oh no,” he said. He stumbled back, muttering half-formed sentences even as I pulled a powered saw out of my waterproof pack and began hooking up a battery.



“Start fucking thinking.”

When the first of the person-creatures reached us, I didn’t hesitate – the saw was designed to hew blocks of Viscera’s bone down to size, to cut holes in corded muscle and fat. It went through these things like a knife through butter.

But I was only one person against a horde.


“I KNOW, I KNOW, he shouted urgently, over the shriek of the powered saw. “FALL BACK. I HAVE AN IDEA.”

I didn’t have time to say anything. My voice wouldn’t work anyway; my heart was in my throat, made it hard to breathe. The monsters didn’t let up even as they fell down. Eventually, I just turned, and I ran after Ego, squelching through the wet flesh-on-flesh of the tunnel.

We ran for perhaps only a few minutes, but it felt like forever, with the things at my back, snapping at my heels. Ego was like a man possessed, running for his life, running from all that was insane and illogical in the world.

Eventually, in front of us, there was a split path, and between them was something very familiar – a generator, hooked up with two long cables to a long, open wound in the wall, where a couple of off-coloured nerves were exposed.

A spasmometer station. Heavy duty. The real deal.

We didn’t exchange any words, then. Ego ran to the generator, switched it on, and there was the hum as the motor came to life. The hum was offset by the shrieking whine of the powered saw as I cut through another monster, but I realised even as they fell and the glowing blood disappeared into the shallow current at my feet that more were arriving, standing up to replaces the ones I cut down.

But that was fine. We just needed time.

I heard Ego scream my name, even through the roar of blood in my ears. He was right behind me. The monsters had pushed me back, had swiped out with sharp, broken fingernails at my suit, tore open a small hole and white gunk began to seep out.

But it was enough. I turned, stuck my saw into the wall-wound, and cut straight down and dived down.

Ego was right behind me, pulling down on the switch as he went. Max voltage.

For a moment, I thought that I was going to die. I couldn’t hear anything any more. The whining of my saw and the heavy beats of the moving monsters and the rushing of the ichor in the vein, all of it was forced out my skull by the sudden crushing pressure as all the muscle around the tube contracted at once.

Ego and I were smushed together. I felt my bones creaking. I wanted to scream, but my jaw was clamped closed. For one long moment, I thought we had overdone it, that the whole thing was just going to keep pressing on us until we died. But then, with blessed release, the muscle relaxed.

I didn’t spare a moment to check back on what the full force of the contraction had done to the monsters, and instead got to work on the pocket I’d cut, cutting and digging and shifting aside the flesh. I found a tiny vein, only big enough for us to squeeze in side-by-side.

It was going to be a long crawl. But we had no choice. I could hear them coming.

If time held any meaning at all when we were drifting purposefully through the ichor, it lost it when we found ourselves squeezing down a tiny, incredibly claustrophobic vein.

There was no blood here, and thus we would have been travelling in darkness, if I hadn’t brought a haemoglobe along with me. I shook up the orb, watched the liquid inside react and then light up with a fiendish intensity.

The red light was no longer comforting, after what had just happened.

We pushed on, me leading the way, weapon out. Ego had the haemoglobe. We didn’t speak. We just crawled.

I think I began to hallucinate things while I was in that tunnel. All I could think about was the people-creatures, things that wore humans like a set of clothes, or maybe people that went down into the Gut just went mental. But that didn’t seem sufficient to me.

There was something else going on.

I kept thinking I could hear them moving, as if they were crawling along behind us, or beside us, separated only by a thin layer of pink flesh. Maybe we would crawl out of the end and they would be standing there, waiting for us, without thinking or feeling. Would pull us apart and eat us or whatever it was that they did.

I began imagining that the walls had ears. That everything we said, everything we thought, was being pulled out of our heads. Cracking open our skulls and picking out our brains and reading the neurons without understanding. A careless thing. A hungry thing.

Ego said, “Oh, God. Skye.” I blinked. I realised I’d been entirely still for an uncomfortably long time. The world started blurring into a reddish-pink-mess. “You have a hole in your suit.”

Metabolic suits aren’t exactly something you can easily fix. They’re sophisticated, and finicky, but essential. The heat and pressure inside that tiny vein down in the darkest depths of Viscera could sometimes be beyond the human body’s ability to withstand. Metabolic suits didn’t care. They adapted to anything. They acted against sense. Wearing them was like wearing Viscera herself.

But mine had a hole it. Suddenly I realised that, if we didn’t act fast, I was going to fucking die, starved of air and life in a hole next to the only person in the entire world who gave a flicker of a fuck if I lived or died.

Ego figured it out before I did. He’d already taken the saw from my unresisting hands and began hacking away at the flesh around him, with reckless abandon. We needed space. We needed air. Something.

It took a few minutes until the vein gave out from under us and we dropped several feet down, landed hard on our backs. The wind was knocked out of me, but it barely rattled me, because I could hardly breathe anyway.

I think I fell unconscious, then.

I came to some time later, feeling wet and cold splash across my face. I spluttered, for a moment, before it found my mouth, and I realised it was water.

I heard Ego say, “Hey. Hey, now. Just drink.” I did as he told me.

The water tasted strange to me, and it was only after I’d had my fill and I’d opened my eyes and taken in my surroundings that I realised it wasn’t from a canister, like I was used to. It was in a clear, glass container, with a label on the side.

“‘Mineral water?’” I asked. My voice sounded like someone had sandpapered the inside my throat.

“Yes,” Ego said. He looked at me, strangely sad. “It’s from the Outside.”

It tasted better than anything I’d ever drank.

I sat up. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know, Skye.” At some point he’d removed the mask of his suit, leaving his pale, drawn face exposed. “We’re deep. Too deep. Where do we go now?”

Before I even said anything, it hit me: I knew exactly where we were.

“We’re close. So very close.”

Ego wanted to argue. I could see it. I could see the anger and the fear in his face, and I knew that in the white light of the Outside, his face would burn red with it.

But down here, with me and the meat and the blood, he just looked tired.

“Alright,” he said. “Lead the way.” He stood up, helped me to my feet. I was woozy, but we were so close that it was easily ignorable.

I looked around, picked a direction, and began to force my way through the muscle.

The flesh here didn’t provide much resistance, so I didn’t really need the saw. We slid through, in the dark, further up, or down, or sideways, or whatever. It didn’t matter. I knew where we were going. I could feel the beat of it, pushing at me from all sides. We slid through as if it was an invitation, luring us deeper.

When we slid out, we saw the Heart.

It was a monumental thing, as large as Oculus, larger maybe, and that wasn’t including the vast chamber that housed it. The Heart was almost entirely black, but the veins and contortions on its surface glistened silver, like stars in the void of space.

Before, we were in almost darkness. Here, at the center, the red light of Viscera was incredibly, impossibly deep – so dark and rich in colour that it had taken on a purplish colour.

It was the centre of everything. And around it were the creatures, hundreds of them, beating at it with broken fists.

One of them turned to us. Then another. They paused in their ritualistic drum beat, detached from the others, and began walking over to us.

I heard Ego say, “Oh my God, they’re massaging the heart, they’re trying to make it–”

And then I did not hear anything, because I could not think, because the two person-creatures that stepped towards us wore faces that I knew.

It was my mom and dad. One look at their faces, and I knew. The yellow eyes, the strange fleshy roots that twined over their faces, they didn’t hide anything.

They held their arms out to me, slowly, as if inviting me to embrace them, and then all I felt my whole body pulse, and contract, and then I began to walk over to them even as I tried to move away. I couldn’t control myself.

I felt my fingers reach for my belt, unhook my spasmometer, heard the whine of the electricity and smelled the sickly pungent scent of Viscera’s lifeblood, stronger than ever, making me lightheaded.

Ego called out to me. I did not listen to him. The corpses of my mom and dad drew me in, towards the heart.

I stabbed the spasmometer into the flesh, lost it in the disgusting, fleshy folds, and then I switched it on, forced it to contract, and then I turned it off, and then back on, off, on.



And then I felt hands on my back, and then Ego was there, my parents hands clawing at him and breaking his skin, making him bleed mundane, precious, human blood onto me. He pulled me and shoved until I was away, and then he was pulled from me.

As he went, I noticed two things:

I saw the gash across his metabolic suit. My metabolic suit.

And then I heard him say, clearly, confidently, voice breaking with pain and anger and fear, “I love you.”

Distantly, between the pounding vibrations of the titanic heart, I could hear myself screaming.

I felt Viscera try to take me, but I did not let it.

I ran.

I’m sitting in my mother’s old room in the mental hospital up in Oculus, now. From the radio by the bed, I hear only static.

The air is tense, as if the entirety of the Oculus is holding its breath. Waiting. Anticipating.

In the morning, I plan to exit through the Pearly Gates, into the Outside, where Ego was born and where I will die.

Even through the miles and miles of meat and muscle and blood and bone, I hear the sound, deafening in my ears. I hear it in my dreams. It beats in time with my own.



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#1 ·
· · >>Pearple_Prose
There's a little bit of inconsistency I noticed with the character's origins:
Back in ‘47, when we first came to Viscera, there was my dad, my momma, and then there was little me tagging along with them.

So, she's not from Viscera originally... except
...‘cause sometimes I think the people born in Viscera are really the sane ones. I mean, the only two people I know who weren’t are...

and other lines imply she is. And then, the history of Viscera is sorta presented with the sort of familiarity it would if she was there for it, I felt? These threw me off a bit as I was reading. I'm also having a hard time figuring out what her age is supposed to be, since at the very beginning she sounds young, but for the rest of it she sounds more like she's a teen, but Ego I assume is an adult if he has a medical license? Might just be me.

This is a really neat little ecosystem you've got here; I just wish we got to see more of it.
#2 · 1
· · >>Fenton >>Pearple_Prose
Well. That was some ride. Very stylish, very flashy, very emotional, very direct-to-Netflix B movie vibe. The pacing, descriptions and use of language speak for themselves. Clearly, the author had a lot of fun writing this, and I think a lot of people will have fun reading it. Well done there!

But me, I like some substance to go with my style, and when I examine the story in that regard, things go a bit south. Looking past the surface-level roller coaster ride, I keep on hitting a solid wall of "What the heck is going on here?!" There's a couple of ways I think it could be improved, both by explaining less and by explaining more.

"Explaining less" is the simplest action item. Or so I thought, until I wound up typing all the below. All the science, all the exposition and history, all the references to the Outside? Cut it. Cut all of it. Especially everything between the first and second break markers. Chop it all and don't give any replacements. Do not attempt to provide any sort of scientific explanation or rational placement for how this setting could actually exist. None of it adds anything substantial to the story, by my reckoning. It just subtracts a bit of the absurd feel, and opens up the door of saying that you're willing to engage questions of science and rationality from the readers. And you shouldn't be willing to engage those questions, because it's not a battle you can possibly win.

I don't mean Viscera's biology here, that's fine. A science fiction story is generally allowed one free conceit, one impossible or implausible thing that is handwaved to Just Work Because The Author Says So. But after the one free pass is used, everything else needs to make sense. The very nature of that genre lies in examining implications, saying "Assuming this one weird thing is true, then what happens?" So we accept that Viscera exists, and works, somehow, and probably has always been there at the bottom of the ocean, and it wakes up, and what happens then?

... Well, it's not clear exactly how big Viscera is, but if she's big enough to span continents, the answer probably involves apocalyptic earthquakes and tsunamis severe enough to annihilate human civilization, triggered irrevocably within minutes of the world-beast's awakening just by its movement. Whatever actions it takes are probably worse.

Assume bombers are scrambled immediately and manage to nuke the thing to death. (This is no small feat, given the very small number of usable nuclear weapons existing in 1945, and the fact that even Viscera's slumped corpse towers high over the flight range of 1945 aircraft, but maybe she puts her head down and something vital gets hit.) Whatever humans have survived the waves will have to deal with massive weather distortions in the coming years, as the corpse forms a new mountain range taller than the Himalayas. Everything's flooded and growing crops reliably is a lost cause, so the survivors probably depend heavily on fishing... but her glowing blood, trailing "across half a world" even before she finally dies, pervades every ocean worldwide.

Ok, I got a bit sidetracked there, but you probably get the picture - even if Viscera's self-contained existence works, the rest of the history given doesn't. And that's just the Outside, we haven't yet begun to touch on on the implausibility of the survivors developing alien stem cell nanosuits by the 70s (stem cells weren't experimentally isolated in real life until 1981,) or the contradictions in Skye's personal timeline that the first review pointed out. None of this is easily if at all solvable in the context of science fiction explanations - the way out is to not turn it into a science fiction story in the first place. The story's already entirely contained In Viscera anyway, just let the setting itself be the conceit and cut away all the distractions.

On the subject of what to explain more, then: what's going on here with the characters? Are the zombies trying to restart Viscera's heart and bringing her back to life? Is there some sort of sporelike infection going on, spreading to the protagonist through the tear in her suit? How did her parents get involved with whatever's going on? What exactly is the extent of human civilization in Viscera, where are the boundaries and maps, what's known and unknown? Has no one else ever made the obvious connection between patients raving about heartbeat-like sounds and maybe something happening with Viscera's heart? What are the rest of the eggheads doing, does Ego have no oversight or what? Why does Skye restart the heart???

What I feel like I'm missing here is the why, behind all the important actions. That... yeah, that really sums it all up. Tell me why all or any of this is happening. In its current state, it's a superficially fun ride, but I wound up not caring very much when it was over, because I don't feel like I understand the characters or events or how any of it fit together. The setting's rational existence doesn't need to be explained; the events of the story do. Take a break from the somewhat overwrought mantras of blood, meat and bone, and give it some soul.

I have no idea where this is going to end up in my votes; I'd say mid-ish but I've seen entries like this rise or sink quite a ways depending on the strength of the rest of the field. (Probably a lot of folk who are not as curmudgeonly as I are going to go high on it, which is why I spent more attention on areas for improvement than on praise.) Thanks for writing - definitely looking forward to the author's notes here!

GOD getting two of these fantasy epics back to back is exhausting to do decent critique for. Slate algorithm whyyy.
#3 ·
· · >>Pearple_Prose
Seems that, just like Ranmilia, I have the two fantasy stories in my slate.
And my review will pretty much look like >>Ranmilia's.
What we have here is engaging, very engaging. I enjoyed following Skye's journey but unfortunately, the ending threw me off a bit. I have troubles to fully grasp the setting and I expected the ending to throw some new light that would have helped me getting it. I'm afraid to say that it didn't. I eneded more confused than I already was. I don't understand what the ending is supposed to mean.

That makes me sad because I can see how much effort you put in this author. I see a solid writing and a very effective pace. I see a vivid background for your story. I see the possible meanings for your characters' name choice. I see many things except the overall meaning of all this. Thus, this can't be placed at the top. I wish I could and I hope some of your readers will be smarter than me and will be able to figure everything out.

I still thank you for the journey, it was very pleasant.
#4 ·
· · >>Pearple_Prose

A lot of good stuff here, author, but as the other comments have said, it all doesn't quite coalesce. Or coagulate, I suppose one should say...

A lot of it comes from the places where the story seems to contradict itself--folks above have mentioned some, but the one that struck me was the way we're told that Viscera has a breathable atmosphere and a non-toxic interior, but then they need the suits to get around. And how does the monster's blood flow if its heart isn't beating? And how is it that in thirty years, no one's ever thought, "Hey, maybe we should find the monster's heart and keep an eye on it"?

Still, as first draft, this shows a lot of promise.

#5 ·
· · >>Pearple_Prose
Having finished this story, I'm not sure whether I love it, or just really, really want to love it. Thank you, at least, for giving me something to get chirpy about. After all my previous reviews, I was starting to worry this would be one of my being-a-sourpuss rounds.

I'm a great fan of Mieville, VanderMeer and Cronenberg, so this setting is like crack to me. The atmosphere hits a perfect chord of gloomy quotidian and grotesque surreal.

The prose is fantastic. “Haemoglobe” is a great pun. And also: “ … grin slide off his face like flesh from bone.” That's some great metaphoring right there. There's not enough said in writer school about tying metaphor into theme, but you've hit the nail on the head with this one.

And there's this subtle (maybe) foreshadowing that this thing isn't quite dead. So, of course it's restartable. And why, for something so alien, is it habitable at all? Why is edible of all things? Well …

So, yes, I loved at that. But other reservations have started to pop up. Small things at first – against this background, zombies and a biological caste system seem quite banal. The zombie fight, especially, comes with an awkward shift of mood. It feels too actiony.

But the big thing is the story itself. It feels almost like it's been emptied – gutted, you might say. This is only evident near the end. Ego and Skye have a great dynamic. Complicated, uncertain, slightly grotesque. And yet Ego's end feels like a nothing. This depth is never quite capitalised on, and that scene makes it shallow, tames it somehow. Same thing for Sky's relations with her parents.

So goes for the final twist. We get all this setup, and then it's a bunch of zombies prodding a big heart. It fits – it's been foreshadowed. All the mysteries come together. But it also feels anticlimactic. Again: Tamed, somehow. The final scene is effectively creepy, with Viscera's influence tightening around Skye's neck, but not quite enough to save it.

Honestly, though? I don't know how to fix this. The setting is so large is deserves more than 5k, or possibly even 8k, words.
#6 ·
· · >>Pearple_Prose

So, I don't think this comes together as quite one solid unit. There's too much pulling in too many different directions. Especially in a short, you really need to focus in on what you actually want the story to do. Is this an investigation of the disappearances? A moody, creepy piece? An exploration of a bizarre setting?

It tries to be all these things at once, and I think it is worse for it. Hone in on what story you really want to tell, then focus on telling that while letting the other stuff drift into the background and flavor. Honestly, that's what a lot of my advice here consists of: condense. Like, really, the first three scenes would be improved if hey were more or less merged into one. The first two are both scene setting with minimal add otherwise.

While the idea is neat, I really don't get a good feeling for the setting or what life is like or how much of Viscera is colonized or the like. Which isn't always a bad thing, but when you focus a lot of attention on detailing the setting, it stands out. Moreover, the core conflict at the end actually is a bit weird to me: if the cause of death was a nuke to the brain, is restarting the heart really gonna do that much?

All that said, honestly, there really is a super cool story in here. I just think you need to decide what the fat is and then cut it.
#7 · 3
So yeah, this story was mine. The red light in the inspirational prompt picture combined with an idea seed I'd had for a few weeks and manifested into this strange, meat-punk(?) setting that you see before you. It took me until like 14 hours before the deadline to figure out the best way to write it, wrote the whole thing in 7 hours, then went to sleep.

It was a lot of fun. I think this story might actually be the best thing I've ever written, but apparently it wasn't up people's alley based on the results.

Re: Skye's origins, I intended for it to be read as "she was so young when she came to Viscera that she doesn't remember what the Outside is like" thereby implying that she might as well have been born there. I guess I could have just said she was born in the meat and it would have had the same effect and been less confusing.

Re: her age, I mention in the text that it's been about three decades. So she's around 30.

This comment I really don't like. I was never attempting to make the whole monster thing "make sense". It's not meant to be a hard sci-fi story. It's more like a fantasy setting that's slightly sci-fi-ish, if anything. And I don't see how the backstory "subtracts from the absurdity"? It's literally a giant monster dying onto a continent. Yes, it's absurd, because that's essentially the point. But even then, yeah, I can get your point. Maybe if the Outside wasn't mentioned at all, I could embrace how weird it is further, and that was one angle I considered taking with it when planning it.

It's the second half of this comment that I don't get at all. You're asking me to "explain less" so I can preserve the feeling of an absurd "B-movie" setting, as you described it, but then the things you actually want me to explain are just kind of... not really that important? Or at least explaining them would just detract from what I was trying to do, in my mind.

Are the zombies trying to restart Viscera's heart and bringing her back to life?

Yes, quite obviously.

Is there some sort of sporelike infection going on, spreading to the protagonist through the tear in her suit?

I purposefully didn't explain that. Up to you.

How did her parents get involved with whatever's going on?

See above.

What exactly is the extent of human civilization in Viscera, where are the boundaries and maps, what's known and unknown?

Why do you want to know? If it was important I would have put it in there, but I'm not going to explain it in a story when I don't need to.

Has no one else ever made the obvious connection between patients raving about heartbeat-like sounds and maybe something happening with Viscera's heart?

Maybe? Maybe they went down to explore and ended up in the same situation. Maybe Skye's mother mentioning of it in the story is the only instance of it. Maybe most people just do what Skye's dad did and disappear without a word. In any case this seems kinda nitpicky. Draw your own conclusions.

What are the rest of the eggheads doing, does Ego have no oversight or what?

Draw your own conclusions. If what the other Brainers were doing specifically is important beyond what I mentioned/implied, I would have mentioned it.

Why does Skye restart the heart???

I can answer this, too. But I'm not fucking going to. Figure it out based on the story.

In general, though, I do think that I messed up by not providing more information behind the characters and their relationship that makes what they're doing feel impactful. So I'll accept the general gist of what you were getting at as valid, but the actual specific things you want me to explain are just... ???


Sorry you couldn't figure it out.

>>Baal Bunny

They need the suits because the deeper parts of the body necessitate them. If you aren't going down into the thick of it, you don't need them. I figured that was implied.

And how does the monster's blood flow if its heart isn't beating?

Good question.

And how is it that in thirty years, no one's ever thought, "Hey, maybe we should find the monster's heart and keep an eye on it"?

Maybe they did.

>>Scramblers and Shadows

Thank you! I do agree that this story definitely could have been more. I'm definitely considering turning this into a novel, or something, just because I felt like I didn't do the setting justice in this piece. And as above, I do agree that I could have given more background and weight to the characters and their relationships.


You definitely have a point re: the pulling in different directions. There's one or two big changes I think I'd make to this story as-is, and then if I had more time to write a longer story, there's definitely a couple things I would have included to provide that sense of the setting that you might have missed out on. The zombies were functional, but yeah, I know a better way I could have handled them for when I ever return to writing a story in this setting again.