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The Howl in the Dark · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
When Insides Turn to Outsides
I ate candy and potato chips each day, and watched all the best movies. I felt terrible. I went to see Doctor Bronner. I told him, “Sometimes when I start to cry I forget how to stop.”

Doctor Bronner picked up a clothing iron. Doctor Bronner hit me upside the head. I saw black.

I woke up in Doctor Bronner's basement. I was naked and strapped to an operating table. Doctor Bronner stood over me. He grabbed a fistfull of my hair and pulled so hard I thought he would tear my head off my neck.

He said, “This operation is brand new. It’s experimental. It’s dangerous.”

Doctor Bronner tore out all the hair on my head. My tender bald scalp burned. Doctor Bronner turned to the hair on my chest, arms, legs, groin. Using tweezers, he ripped them all out, one-by-one. With each hair, he listed off a new danger.

I might lose my ability to speak. I might forget how to add two plus two. My penis might stop working. My insides might turn to outsides.

Doctor Bronner strapped a metal device to my face that forced my mouth wide open. He held a little itty-bitty silver hammer and little itty-bitty metal pick. He set the tip of the pick against my top-front tooth. Doctor Bronner tap-tap-tapped the hammer on the pick. My top-front tooth cracked.

Doctor Bronner broke all my teeth. He said, “Way deep down inside every person is a tiny little sliver of something wonderful.”

Doctor Bronner stuck surgical tongs into my open mouth. He gripped my tongue. He yanked my tongue out of my mouth like a songbird with an earthworm. He said, “You let us hear hints of your wonderful when you laugh.” With a sharpie, Doctor Bronner marked a long black line down my chest to my stomach, its tip cold and wet on my skin. “We get a little tiny taste of your wonderful when you kiss. Your wonderful spills right down your face when you watch a very sad movie and can’t help but cry.”

Doctor Bronner pressed the point of a scalpel to the line on my chest. Doctor Bronner sliced. He opened up my torso like a curtain opening up at the start of a play, he opened me up like opening night. He said, “But you hide your wonderful.” Doctor Bronner took a bonesaw into my torso and carved. He worked hard. Sweat dripped from his forehead. “You are so full of hateful ugly thoughts they’re sprouting red from your pores like pimples. You see an old woman and you think old. You see a fat woman and you think fat. You see yourself in the mirror and you think hate hate hate.”

Doctor Bronner put down the bonesaw. Doctor Bronner slapped me, punched me, kicked me. He screamed, “You hide your wonderful. You are hiding your wonderful from me. I will find it.” Doctor Bronner reached his gloved hands into my open torso and pulled and twisted. Doctor Bronner yanked out both my lungs, shoveled out my stomach. He held my beating heart in his fist. He squeezed. My body deflated like a wet balloon.

Doctor Bronner worked all night long. Doctor Bronner gasped. He stuck a tweezer in my chest. Delicately, elegantly, joyously, a princess with a teacup, he lifted a shining bloody sliver the size of a toenail out of my ruined body.

They put my sliver on television. They put my sliver on every station. They broadcast my sliver via satellite all across the world. They wept at the sight. They strapped my sliver to a space probe and launched it on a tour of the solar system to show off to all the other planets. Look what mother made. Look what Mother Earth’s cooked up this time.

On a morning news talk show, when asked to explain his operation, Doctor Bronner said, “Way deep down inside every person is a tiny little sliver of something wonderful. But think of yourself. I can find your wonderful. I can show it to everybody. But think how much of you I’d have to cut. I take their teeth so they cannot bite. I take their lungs so they cannot scream.”

Thousands flocked to Doctor Bronner’s operating table. Like beautiful baby lizards from scaly eggs, slivers of wonderful climbed out of their shattered bodies. Radiant, and perfect, and they called it love.
« Prev   27   Next »
#1 · 3
· · >>Samey90 >>aconcernedparent
is this Cupcakes?

I think this might be way more grotesque than Writeoff rules allow.

I don't mind gore, but I still left this feeling confused. the Doctor's making some point about human nature...? I think the intro is too rushed; it's a funny hook but it feels way too random, and I don't have any context for this character. He's being eviscerated against his will because he feels sad? The ending was pretty creepy, with everyone volunteering to go through this themselves, but I'm still lost on what this represents. There's not even any reaction, one way or another, from the narrator while being tortured. Or even afterwards, when logically he should be dead, but he's still narrating. And I guess he's happy with what happened? Or at least he doesn't object to it. Maybe he doesn't care.

Honestly I suspect all this pretense of "meaning" is just to disguise that it's gore porn.
#2 · 4
· · >>aconcernedparent
is this Cupcakes?

That was my first thought too. I'm pretty sure that's some metaphor for looking for goodness in humans. Or possibly that to become truly perfect one has to give up human nature? ("I take their teeth so they cannot bite. I take their lungs so they cannot scream"). I sense misanthropic overtones below all the guts here.
#3 · 1
· · >>aconcernedparent
I'm with the last line of Haze's comment. It hasn't tracked for me. Since you haven't really nailed your meaning, it's looking like gore porn to me. Edit: to clarify this comment, in light of recent developments, my point is that the meaning went over my head, so the gore is all I see, and I thought Haze's terminology 'gore porn' was appropriate so I parroted it. I wasn't saying you intended for this to happen, just that that's the trap such a gory story will fall into if it's not careful. Everyone's enthusiasm to getting butchered is especially strange.

I mean, I definitely liked how it was written. The voicing was neat, and the story progresses at a pace I can really get behind. I certainly appreciate the experiment, is what I'm trying to say. But a little more info for the protagonist could have gone a long way, I think.

But I'm glad I read it! Thanks for writing, Author.
#4 · 3
· · >>aconcernedparent
Potentially interesting and ballsy work that unfortunately drops to last on my slate due to the grotesque content at a level I feel is outside the rules for this round. Yes, I know it may be metaphorical, but IMO the point still stands and I had to judge accordingly.
#5 ·
· · >>Haze >>Aragon >>Samey90 >>RogerDodger >>Skywriter
>>Miller Minus

None of you have any idea what 'gore porn' is.

I guess I need some explanation why describing eviscerated human remains as 'salsa' or lines like 'And struck. Crunching and splattering followed. Bits rained down on the hard floor.' and explicit descriptions of violence and 'flesh chunks' are fair play but 'He opened up my torso like a curtain opening up at the start of a play, he opened me up like opening night.' is apparently a foul ball.

#6 · 4
· · >>aconcernedparent
None of you have any idea what 'gore porn' is.

if you work at Google, you can check my browser history
#7 ·
· · >>No_Raisin >>Haze >>RogerDodger

It's nice to know other people's work is a joke to you. Jackass.
#8 · 2
There's a certain word I want to use for your comments, but it's not coming to me right now.
#9 · 2
· · >>Aragon
heh, I'm really not joking on that. But that's beside the point.

I hadn't even read the two entries you quoted as counterexamples, so I had to look them up. Just the presence of gruesome violence isn't the matter here, it's how it's used, how it's written. The "salsa" thing is done in this detached tone, and honestly the word just sounds too silly to take too seriously. It's like having the line "and then they boned!" and accusing it of being a porno. The other story has dismemberment, but it's only one line. And then immediately afterward the tension is relieved because the victim starts talking.

72% of this fic's wordcount is the operation scene. Hence the comparison to Cupcakes. This is far more graphic than describing some sickening noises, or a comparison to food. And it's not like it's described as a sterile medical procedure either. Teeth being chiseled into pieces, lungs and hearts removed? I know this is prose and not film, so it's not like you can see it, but it's pretty intense, and it stays at that level of intensity until the last three paragraphs.

Some entries might cut it pretty close, but I can give them the benefit of the doubt that they're using gore (or sex) in service of the story. But this one is... yeah I can see it's going for some kind of message about the slivers of wonderful, but I find it so abstract and vague that it means nothing to me. Some of the wordcount could've been reserved for establishing character or context to better carry the philosophical message, but the focus seemed to be on making the operation more visceral instead. So really I'm critiquing it as being pretentious and hollow as a story, and all that's left is an effective gory torture scene. That's debatable, but it's my opinion, and someone can defend its artistic merit if they disagree.

And all this is coming from someone who thinks Cupcakes is actually quite clever and underrated despite its reputation as a "trollfic".... but it's still gore porn.
#10 · 1
I think the word you gotta use is not "gore" or "bloody" but more like "disturbing", IMO. "Grotesque". The story I honestly like a lot, but it IS an example of using disturbing imagery for the sake of a metaphor.

It's a bit of a fuzzy thing, to differenciate what counts as "too much" and what does not in these cases. It's about tone, I think, and focus, and details. This one isn't bloody, but it's super clear that the author was going for a visceral tone/imagery for the fic. Metaphorical, but it IS supposed to make you cringe, or flinch, or suck air through your teeth. It's supposed to disturb you. It's disturbing to make a point.

It makes the point well? But I guess it toes the line too much for it to work within the rules of the writeoff. I do think calling this more disturbing than a story where a lot of people die is not hypocritical, it's just taking tone into consideration. I'm sorry for the author cause being told you did what you wanted to do TOO WELL and that is somehow bad must suck, but -- take it as a compliment, I guess?

In a perfect world this would pass to finals cause on concept and execution alone it certainly deserves it. But, rules are rules, and this competition works within certain restrictions. Shame, but you can't shoot the messenger, especially when -- sad as it is -- the messenger has a point.

I do say, this is not gore. This is disturbing surrealism. Different beast altogether, but still not PG-13.
#11 · 2
Joining the bandwagon here.

I feel like there's a good story somewhere in this entry. I agree with everyone else, the tone is visceral, and I do like it, yes, but it doesn't serve any other purpose other than to unsettle us. I feel like the point it's making is lost in all the descriptions, which were done well, but the message behind them is not coming through.

One fix I can think of while reading this story is that we change the reader's perspective to that of Doctor Bronner.

He seems to be the fulcrum of the story, with the sequence of events ostensibly more important to him than to our objectively more boring protagonist. Considering how absurd the direction of the story was already from the victim's perspective, I'd like to see a transcendence of that by jumping into the mad doctor's shoes. I want to understand his logic, as illogical as it may be. I want to feel his ecstasy, as immoral as it may be. If there's a message in this story, perhaps it can be accentuated further with this character in the focus without sacrificing all the little details in the process.

To put it in the simplest and bluntest way possible, the story had the gall to disturb us for the moment we're reading it but lacked the conviction to cement it for eternity. If you want to write something shocking, I'd say make it a memorable one. It can be done and it has been done before, even with a short word count.
#12 · 1
Dunno, but for me describing gore as "salsa" is the equivalent of using a phrase "love taco" in a clopfic. It immediately establishes the scene is not quite serious (and now I'm tempted to write a guro fic using solely Mexican cuisine references).
#13 ·
To me, this fic evoked slapstick humor. Such as a scene torn from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (or maybe it could fit in Moral Orel, if you replace love by faith?). I agree with Aragón: it’s not gory, it’s just gross, exaggerated and overacted enough that we can safely exculpate the author from any charge of unseemliness.

Now, if it is the best way to convey the message, especially in front of an audience like this, remains to be seen. I'd say, as a French guy used to French humor and literature, this is perfectly acceptable: Sade used very explicit sex scenes to convey his philosophy. YMMV.

The one thing you succeeded in, author, is to write a very divisive piece. Which is a good thing, in the sense that it proves that people over here ain’t stereotypes. Technically, there’s hardly anything to nitpick on here. Writing and pacing are good.

Verdict: I don’t know what to do with that story. I can’t say I disliked it. On the other hand, I can’t shake off the feeling that it was also written to be purposefully shocking, and that shock value doesn’t add anything to the message you want to deliver. I think I’ll abstain
#14 · 7
· · >>aconcernedparent
These comments were reported as an anonymity violation because they are obviously by the author.

While usually I would've DQ'd this entry, it was submitted under Anonymous. Anonymity violations when the fic is by Anonymous don't have any precedent, and I think the rules in this case were sufficiently ambiguous that a disqualification was not justified.

The intent of the rules however are very distinctly against this behaviour. Any future cases of people giving an authorial perspective will be ruled as an anonymity violation, regardless of who the entry was submitted under.

(Also, as a general rule, please don't use the alias feature to make inflammatory comments.)
#15 · 1
· · >>aconcernedparent
Okay, um, I thought it was a potentially good idea, If I didn't think it was good, I would have just ranked it low and stayed mum, I didn't want a low ranking to go without comment, and I didn't want the author--presumably you?--to think that the low rating was because I disapproved of the story inherently, just that it is was outside the rules as I read them.

I didn't call it gore porn. I was trying to say something nicer than a straight low ranking would have conveyed. Does that make sense? I do hope so. I never intended to evoke hostility.

Also, at least one story you're quoting got a low score from me for exactly the same reasons, so you might want to reconsider the blanket accusations of hypocrisy. I only spoke up here to try and give you support.
#16 ·
I'd assumed it would be disqualified. Was surprised when it wasn't.

You're fine, dude.