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Organised by RogerDodger
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Letters from the Unknown
The other scientists were out of the workshop. The computerized clock ticked down to one minute left.

"I don't think you get it." The Professor's fingers twitched with nervous energy. "The other test subjects…"

Merk frowned. "They were thoughtless. Went nuts. I won't, so don't worry."

"But other universes could be mindbendingly different. Full of concepts we don't comprehend!"

Merk buckled himself into the invention. "Risky, yes, but worthwhile. Think of the possible discoveries. We could improve the entire world for the better."

"But your wife… Your kids."

"They know I must do this. We've spoken." He sighed. "You've got to go now."

The Professor shivered. "Promise you'll return."

"I will."

With one lingering look, the Professor scurried behind the shielding where the computers hummed, powering up for full mission commencement.

Merk checked the contents of his utility pouch, flipped down the visor on his helmet, looked over the info registers showing the invention's core outputs. Everything seemed good.

He provided the thumbs-up when the timer clicked to fifteen seconds.

Then he closed his eyes. No one know the true problem with the previous botched missions. The cognitive deficiencies of prior crews could result from viewing the crossing in-between dimensions. But then, so much of the process continued to be mysterious. Could other dimensions be full of toxins, their lifeforms evolved within those contexts? Could they consist of hostile beings with queer powers over the mind? Could the underlying physics work differently? Or even time itself?

The possibilities were endless. But Merk knew his combo of scientific knowhow with soldier's experience would let him succeed where others fell short.

The noise of the workshop grew tremendously, until the countdown hit one second.

Merk tensed up. Not nervous. Just tensed, like the coiled spring which rockets up to the ceiling when let go.

Then the sound of the universe ripping open to form the tiniest hole, big enough one sole pilgrim to worlds unknown.

When Merk opened his eyes, he found himself sitting in the middle of the street.

He took stock of his surroundings. Nothing seemed out of the norm. This city could be from his own world.

Over the fence to the street's side, trees grew. Birds flitted through their limbs. Joggers, children, the elderly strolled by on cobblestone routes, enjoying the fine sunshine.

In the other direction, shops stood together, with dresses behind their windows. Shoppers drifted by, just browsing the selections. Some noticed his position in the street, pointing in shock.

Merk stood slowly, blinking his eyes to prevent dizziness. He must look ridiculous in the suit he wore. But the peril continued to be serious.

Sudden honking of horns confirmed the risk. Vehicles obviously sought to use the street, so—

One truck stopped suddenly in order to prevent running Merk over. Behind it, the driver continued on obliviously, resulting in luckily the tiniest of fender-benders.

Both drivers got out, yelling insults to themselves plus Merk too.

Nonetheless, Merk felt relief. It seemed like this universe would be fine. His mission would be successful. He stumbled in the direction of the drivers. Then he listened to the words one spoke.

"Ugh," the person groused. "I'll phone for triple-A."

Merk felt something in his mind twist, tumbling to the ground with his limbs twitching.

"What's his problem?" the other driver questioned. "Oh my god. Someone call an ambulance! He's… he's bleeding from the ears!"

Merk's mouth hung open, producing one sound: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
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#1 ·
· · >>GroaningGreyAgony
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat did I just read?
There are some really minor mistakes, but my main gripe is that I really, really don’t get it.
The A is Awful? Aggressive? Astounding?
What has hAppend? I have no clue. Sorry Author, I’ll need you explaining me that.
#2 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
Aha! Cleverly done, Author! I was going to say that the beginning felt a bit padded, at least for those familiar with the tropes of interdimensional travel, then I realized why it was there. I think some polishing would still help here.

Reread the first half of the story. What’s missing?
#3 ·
· · >>Ranmilia
Oh I see now.

But that doesn’t really redeem the story to my eyes. Okay, I hail the lexical tour de force. But still, the plot doesn’t make sense. You can’t base your story (the contents) on a quirk of the form.

More precisely, why would the sound a cause such a turmoil? It’s like every time you’re exposed to a foreign language using non-English sounds, you freak out.
#4 ·
Heh. Pretty good.
#5 ·
· · >>Bachiavellian
While the premise isn't the most logical, it's clever, and I can't help but salute the craft on display. I'm not sure if I would've even realized it, without the red highlights.

The action and characters get the job done, but aren't particularly memorable, but for knowing the constraints it was written under. Kind of a niche piece, but cleverly executed.
#6 ·
· · >>Bachiavellian
a little dull at first, but a great payoff at the end.

I think expanding the ending so that the letter starts appearing outside of the dialogue tags would make it stronger. such as Merk seeing it in writing, and then perhaps even within the narration itself. it would be more clear that it's not just the sound that bothers him, but reality itself breaking him.
#7 ·
I was gearing up to say how the prose doesn't really feel natural, but then I reached the twist. I have to give it to you, this is a pretty darn clever idea, and it makes use of the written medium very well. But I will have to echo >>Haze and >>Ratlab in that the story elements outside of the twist feel bland. I know you're fighting against a strict word cap and an even harsher limit on your word choice, but I think a little genuine emotional investment in the main character would add a ton of mileage to that ending.
#8 ·
As the others, especially >>Monokeras have said: cute gimmick, definitely worthy of applause for carrying it on to that extent, but one gimmick alone does not make a story. I would've loved to see this idea implemented into a stronger narrative, give it some real cause and effect and maybe a bit more in the way of characters and action.

In its current form, this is just another mini built to show off a single concept rather than tell a story. We've got a whole pile of those over here, and while the execution of the gimmick may raise this to the top of that particular pile... it's going in the pile regardless.

Don't let that bother you too much, though, author person friend. You did a neat thing, even if it doesn't interface too well with my methodology of critique. I hope you had a lot of fun writing this (it certainly looks that way!). I definitely got the kick of "oooh wait is it doing THAT? It IS!" and I think that's mainly what you were aiming for. Thanks for writing!
#9 · 1
Writer, we need to discuss universes side-by-side with ours.

Much of the excellence in this is embedded in the gimmick. Luckily for my voting, it's quite the gimmick. Writing text free of specific given symbols is no minor chore — doubled by keeping it well hidden before the twist, despite dodging one highly common letter! I do quite like the skill shown in it; it's definitely unique! But then, I've long been supportive of experiments in the Writeoffs. This extends the string of such stories ... admirably.

Tier: Strong
#10 ·
Ho hrm. Cute gimmick, but it, unfortunately, is not a gimmick that does much for me (and I will fully yield I had to read the comments to get it - problem with Writeoff reading sometimes). All in all, it is definitely clever and the dedication to the trick is good, but yeah, I just don't overly care for it.
#11 ·
Oh my Moon this is just completely incredible! To the top of the list you go. You'd better win this contest, whoever you might be. I've never enjoyed poring over one of the entries in the nonpony contests quite like this one. Your story is simply perfect.

(Yes, I tried to be mindful in this review, but it's not like I could outdo the writer without going on forever.)
#12 ·
Okay, I was a little confused, but when I re-read it, I suddenly figured it out. Kudos to the author for writing an entire section without a certain letter; that must have been killer to do and still make it seem natural. I also liked the idea that something so simple can drive a person to madness. I guess what we say really does have power.

The only gripe I have is that maybe the build-up was a bit too long. I think jumping into the world should've happened a bit sooner, if only so that the story doesn't drag too much. Other than that, this was a fun read.

8/10, now go review your vowels one final time