wordsonthewind t1_jcdptyq wrote

Hi Chop! This felt more like a lead-in to a longer story but it was a great lead-in! Pauline felt really vivid and real as a character, with her struggle to make a living and dream of breaking a huge story. Her impatience was woven in well throughout the entire story too.

I'd have appreciated a bit more specifics about the exact nature of the story Pauline is chasing. There's photos as evidence but I'd have liked some idea about what was in those photos, if that makes sense. Other than that, I feel like describing her informant's sudden greeting as "something hitting her in the side of the head" was a bit too misleading. I genuinely thought the contact had thrown something at Pauline to get her attention and it was kind of jarring to mentally readjust. Just my two cents.

Good words!


wordsonthewind t1_jcb9fyc wrote

Honest politicians! I never thought I'd see the day.

You really took full advantage of the press conference format. The names were hilarious and the senator was just glorious as this smug old man reveling in his power and corruption-backed excesses. The alleged senatorial ethics committee at the end was a wonderful touch too.

>From now on, we will do whatever we like without consequences, as usual, but we'll no longer pretend that we're not.

I think this line could have been a little more concise though, maybe through Rich being blunter. Just my two cents.

Good words!


wordsonthewind t1_jc97f6x wrote

Tigo was much younger in person. All the photos on his official website showed a man with haunted eyes and gray at his temples. In his performances he moved like there was a weight on his soul, forcing everything he had no words for into the show. But now, in the hotel restaurant we'd agreed on for the dinner interview, all of that seemed to melt away. He lounged in his seat, looking every bit like the mid-thirties man he was.

I was just glad he was here at all. For a seasoned performance artist, Tigo was notoriously reclusive. He bared his soul to the world in his work, but outside of it he was famously cynical and abrasive, thumbing his nose at the establishment in whatever form it took. I didn't trust my magazine's indie darling status to exempt me from that label.

Our drinks arrived, and I decided to start with some simple pleasantries. "You landed in Mondeclay a week ago. How are you finding the city so far?"

He sighed. "Finally, something open-ended. Do you know how many people said 'good morning' to me today?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Six, and all before I'd even finished my breakfast."

"If you have any complaints about the service here, you should take them up with the management," I said.

He sipped from his glass. "It's not about the service. It's about the scripts people refuse to admit that they read from."

"Is that all you want to cover in this interview?" I asked. "Nothing about your process, your hobbies, your latest installation at the Blackstone Gallery?"

I'd seen the previews, of course. His publicist had put together a press kit. The video gave away just enough to look mysterious: a shot of an unmade bed, a brief close-up of Tigo's face as a lone tear rolled down his cheek.

I'd been looking forward to the full piece. But now I was rapidly losing interest in anything he had to say.

He snorted, already getting up to leave. "Do I want to reduce myself to a grayscale outline, flatten out the work I bled and wept for, just to appeal to an empty-hearted public? No."

For a moment I was too indignant for words. He'd agreed to the interview. He'd suggested this place. And now he was going to walk away and make this a waste of my time.

I had to salvage something from this mess. I readied my camera.

"Don't you want to see what performance you can make out of this?" I called to him.

He turned at the sound of my camera snapping, just in time for me to capture the expression on his face: curious, unguarded.


wordsonthewind t1_j9yh38s wrote

He called it a commune, a brotherhood, but there was nothing fraternal about our life here.

The house was fully furbished by the time we arrived. He had plenty of time to prepare our rooms for us. Strangely enough, he hadn't found the time to buy proper farm equipment or actually learn how to live off the land. He hadn't even written up a basic set of house rules. He didn't care, and I mistook that for composure.

"Failure isn't fatal," he would say after the latest blowup over broken tools or cleanup duty. "This is a setback for all of us, but we'll learn. We'll do better."

Everyone learned a lot in those days. We learned not to question him or point out his mistakes, only fix them quietly when he wasn't paying attention. He learned how to use food and love to keep people in line. He saw all of us as collections of faulty parts to be fashioned into useful components in his design, and we were all so easily replaced.

He soon dropped his unwritten three-strikes rule. Another eager young idealist was always available to move in. Forgetting a friend is painful but I got used to the sting quickly. It hurt less than his wrath.

He'd never wanted brothers. Only serfs and subjects. But by the time I realized that, it was already too late.


wordsonthewind t1_j7se76m wrote

I would take economics lessons from Father Jonathan. He's got a good perspective and really knows how to keep an audience's attention. I appreciated the occasional mentions of the students' reactions; they kept the whole thing from being a straight-up monologue.

As for crit, I'm assuming Father Jonathan hews closer to a micro view: it fits with his emphasis on the little details of life and his advice to focus on changing your world instead of the world. I think I'd have liked that to be more explicit, if only to tie up that tiny loose end where he brought up "macro" and "micro" and then only detailed the "macro" worldview. On a somewhat related note, the economic terms he dropped throughout his speech were a nice touch too.

Good words!


wordsonthewind t1_j7ohfw9 wrote

Hi kat! Wow, what an amazing twist. You did a really good job portraying Edwin's sleaziness. The way he tried to undermine Sally and then force the casting couch on her was quite true to life. I liked the shot she took at his classism at the end as well.

As for crit, I think I'd have liked to see more foreshadowing for the plan and Mrs Carothers' reveal in more detail. Mostly because I want to see that mix of anger and contempt she must have for her husband tbh.

Good words!


wordsonthewind t1_j7obz4h wrote

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” – William Morris

Mom made the best desserts. A cliche, maybe, but in my case it was true. She used to say that she'd seriously considered being a baker, but getting the fresh-baked treats and pastries out in time for ravenous customers to purchase their breakfast meant having to get up in the middle of the night. And she simply wasn't a morning person. Besides, she loved to tinker and come up with new recipes rather than make things in batches.

My favorite creation of hers was something she called Liar's Pie. The first time she served it, she cut a slice for Dad and me. Then she told us what she'd named it.

"Why is it called that?" Dad wanted to know.

Mom smiled. "Try a slice and see for yourself."

"But Mom," I said very reasonably, "why would you bake this pie for me? I never lie to you."

Mom laughed at that. "Of course you don't. Just dig in."

The pie did smell good and I didn't think Mom had planned this as elaborate revenge for little fibs about who ate the last cookie or used up the toilet paper in the bathroom without replacing the roll. It was banana-and-toffee flavored, but there was something else to it. A mysterious slightly sparkly flavor that lingered on the tongue. At that time, I thought nothing of it.

I only realized what the pie had done at school the next day. The words simmered at the tip of my tongue, a million little stories and excuses waiting to be unleashed. Details jumped out at me: I saw my classmates' moods and secrets as clearly as their uniforms or the color of their hair.

"Did you do the reading?" Marie whispered from next to me.

I had, but that wasn't what she wanted to hear. "No."

She brightened up despite herself. "Neither did I. How are we gonna hide from Mr Davis?"

A plan unfolded itself, words and ideas falling into place. I smiled.

"Don't worry," I said. "I'll distract him."

I hated the story Mr Davis had assigned. It was full of assumptions about how the world should be, not to mention ideas about human nature that didn't hold true in my experience. But I knew not to say any of that the same way I knew about the bald spot he was trying to hide, and my stream of effervescent words held his attention well enough.

The pie wore off by dinner, but I understood. Mom hadn't gone for the blunt instrument of enforcing honesty at all times. Instead she'd tried to show me how I could use my skills for good.

It was a lesson I never forgot.


wordsonthewind t1_j5dcl8x wrote

Chloe knew from a young age that she didn't belong.

"What's wrong with you?" Her mother had asked her more than once. "We give you everything and you still complain. You know, most children actually look forward to growing up."

Chloe knew better though. Growth just made problems get bigger. She had to find a way out before she got trapped.

She joined a self-improvement chat, pretending to look for study tips, then followed the talks and links in private channels from there. That was when she'd first learned about hopping. Chloe had always thought you needed to use a time machine or portal magic to go to other places and times. But apparently, all you really needed was the power of your mind.

She looked up instructions and success stories. The Mirror Method seemed promising. You sat between two mirrors in a dimly lit room and repeated a set of affirmations. Done correctly, you would find yourself in a parallel world, shuffled there through the mirrors' infinite reflections. She'd had to scrounge a hand mirror from her mom's dressing table, but the bathroom mirror was big and she'd hoped that would make up for it.

But she was still here. Nothing had changed. Nothing would ever change, she would never get away, she would never be free.

She couldn't think like that. In all the worlds out there, there was one where things were better. If she couldn't go there, maybe someone could come to her. Someone strong and smart and brave, who knew her like she knew herself.

Chloe didn't know any methods for that, so she just closed her eyes and wished.

And just like that, there they were.

"Hi!" they said. "Am I you? That's kinda confusing. I'm me and you're you. Isn't that simpler?"

Chloe laughed. She was too old for imaginary friends, but she'd used the mirrors and done the affirmations. This was meditation. Having a mental mastermind meeting like in her dad's self-help books. Yeah, that was it.

"Would you like to see my room?" she asked her alternate self.

Their smile shone brightly. "I'd love that."

She swiped an old compact mirror from her mother's dressing table. Under the big old tree in the schoolyard, she opened the mirror and did her meditations.

"I don't know what your world is like," her alternate self said. "What if I get stuff wrong because things are different over here?"

The solution, they both decided, was to read more books over here and try to compare notes. Their school library didn't have a lot of books but the librarian was happy to help them out. She gave them one or two old books each week with strict instructions to be careful with them.

"What does that mean?" Chloe wondered one afternoon under the tree, pointing to a word in the book they were reading.

"Misquemed," her alternate self said. "Hmm. I think it means 'like a mosquito'."

Chloe skimmed the rest of the passage. It seemed strange to talk about mosquito-likeness here but she didn't know if it was wrong either. They copied the word, then went to the school library. Luckily, there was a big old dictionary all the way in the back.

"Well, it means mosquito-like where I'm from," her alternate self said afterwards.

Chloe grinned. "It's okay. I'm never gonna use it anyways-"

"Oh look," someone else said. "It's the freak."

Chloe turned around. It was Ashleigh and her boyfriend Henry. Why were they here? They always snuck out to the mall with their friends at lunchtime.

"They come here to hold hands," her other self whispered. "Henry thinks his friends'll call him a sissy otherwise."

Chloe stood a little taller. "It'll take more than that to misqueme me!"

Ashleigh sneered, but Henry stepped forward.

"You're talking funny," he said. "I'll fix your head real quick-"

He raised a fist, and that was when Chloe hit him with the dictionary.

Everyone left her alone after that.

They had to part ways sooner or later. Chloe was graduating this year, moving on to high school. A bigger class with students who hadn't known her or each other since they were all in first grade. A fresh start.

"I don't know how much longer I can stay here," her other self said. "I'll be busy with school too, so..."

Chloe nodded. Her parents had been clear that she had to stop staring into mirrors and do something useful with her life. "I understand. You taught me a lot. Thank you for everything."

Her other self laughed. "Thank you for letting me see your world for a while. Wanna know a secret?"

At Chloe's nod, she leaned forward and whispered in her ear.

"You don't need the mirrors. You never did."


wordsonthewind t1_j4calpx wrote

When I built my time machine I thought I could finally fix everything. I would go back into my personal history, redoing as much of my lifespan as it took until I found the perfect sequence of perfect days. Any number of loops was worth it if I could find the sequence of events that would make them stay. But they always left me, no matter what actions I took, no matter how many times I fired up my machine and hopped back for another go.

Bereft, I abandoned my own time period and took to wandering. I visited Japan in the 1920s, France in the 1400s, and many other far-flung places and eras besides. Then, in a London inn in 1752, I dreamed of a shining city which had streets that hurt my eyes. I saw the people who lived there, happy and perfected, from every world and time I could imagine. One of them looked right at me and smiled, and I knew the dream was true. My only thought when I woke was to make my way there immediately. But no matter how I searched the past and future, that perfect city was nowhere to be found.

It galled me. By this time I had long since experienced my life countless times over, to the point where my destitution and ruin was just one of many outcomes to me. I had nothing left to see in this world. But my machine could not break through this world and see the other possibilities still to be offered elsewhere. The set of possible timelines I could visit remained confined to the history of the world I had been born in.

Building my time machine had taken nearly a decade of obsessive tinkering and planning. It took me an order of magnitude more than that before I could upgrade it to access all the possibilities of all the worlds that were or would ever be. And with that, I entered the multiverse.

It is useless to talk of the passing of years when you can traverse that span at will. For many repair cycles of my time machine, I explored the multiverse and lost myself to its delights. Why chase a dream of utopia when a myriad of real pleasures lay open to me for the taking?

But the city found me again.

Chronoberg was a legend among the time travelers who had reached the multiverse. Where everyone who had ever lived was subject to time, moving ever forward into the dark tunnel of the future, the architects who built Chronoberg saw time as their plaything and tool. They paved their streets with it. Most importantly, it was the one place out of all the endless possibilities offered by the past and future that our machines could not reach. We only had those tantalizing little hints at the city's existence, a million tiny anachronisms scattered across just as many timelines. Dangled before us like bait on a string, some travelers whispered.

Except I had more than that. I had help, but I had no idea where it came from. The plans were simply on my desk one day. One last modification to my time machine: simple, but so counterintuitive that I would never have thought to try it on my own. Even seeing the diagrams and calculations that proved its veracity, I doubted it would work.

But I followed the plans exactly. And this time, my machine didn't jump forwards or backwards in my own world's history, nor sideways into the histories of other worlds. It went in a completely new direction, one that I had no name for. I found myself outside a shining gate. The happy city lay just beyond, its streets glinting with frozen time.

I would have to drop off those last plans at my own desk someday, I decided.

I stepped through. Here, I knew, there was time enough at last.


wordsonthewind t1_ixv3vam wrote

A while back when everyone was obsessed with those hyperrealistic cake videos there was a prompt about a knife which turns everything it cuts into cake. Weird as it sounds I didn't make the connection to the trend and thought the prompt was about a delightfully weird magic item. I still wish I could see it that way


wordsonthewind t1_iucgfg6 wrote

Don't be too harsh on Past You. They were doing their best with what they had, I'm sure!

For what it's worth I never get mad at Past Me for typos, weird nonsense or just plain dross. Typos can be corrected, weird nonsense can be dredged for gems, dross can just be removed. But I can't edit a draft that doesn't exist. Why would Past Me stick me with this impossible task?

But I'm sure they were doing their best too. Good luck with Nano!


wordsonthewind t1_itcjyy0 wrote

For three months in summer back when I was eight years old, I had a little brother.

My childhood is fuzzy. The memories are hard to reach for, but happy ones are few and far between. When I think about Mom and Dad I remember their arguments about me. I made them worry a lot and there was always some new problem to deal with. Sometimes I wondered if they could both be happy without something going horribly wrong.

My brother could keep them happy. Even with everything else he did to them, I still think my parents would consider those three months the happiest days of their lives. If they could remember them, at least.

Mom brought him home one caliginous night, as the word-a-day calendar from her office would say. I don't know which poor child it ate back then to worm its way into her heart, but that was all it took. It was slow earlier on, though, so she tried to make me feel included at first.

"It's just for a few days," she told me as she fussed over him. "I just couldn't leave him out there. You can share your room while your father and I look for his parents. I can't imagine how worried they must be..."

She was untangling his matted hair with a fine comb. She had never been that gentle with me. Whenever I shrieked in pain, she would only tell me that it was because I never combed my hair.

"And if we can't find them," she continued, "we can go to the police-"

The boy stiffened under her touch, eyes wide. Then he screamed. I waited for her soft look to harden, for the cold order to go to his room. But she hugged him tight even as he thrashed and wailed.

"No, of course we won't go to the police," she murmured. "You've done nothing wrong. You're safe here. We'll give you everything you need."

I clenched my fists.

My parents printed posters and talked about reaching out to people they knew. But days became weeks and eventually I found the rolled-up posters in the trash. They never even tried to put them up. As far as they were concerned, I had a new brother now.

But Victor wasn't like us. He never slept. No matter how much Mom fed and bathed and cleaned him, he was always the same starving wretch covered in filth she'd brought home that day. He never talked, and I would have understood because I didn't like speaking either, but he never tried anything to make himself understood. He just stared silently, almost balefully, until my parents' frantic guessing game hit their mark. I wondered where he was raised, if he really had been born in a barn like my dad used to tell me occasionally. He thought nothing of standing over me while I slept. Knocking was a foreign concept to him.

I hated my new brother with every fiber of my being, but nobody else cared or noticed. They loved him. They thought he was perfect.

He didn't have to go to school. After the first week, Mom was convinced he'd been through a hugely traumatic event and trying to put him through classes would only upset him. I would come home to my favorite cartoons blaring through the house while Mom slaved away in the kitchen trying to make something Victor wouldn't reject.

The day I learned about the cuckoo, I was glad he wasn't in school. We were learning about parasites in biology, and all anyone could think about was worms.

"What about the cuckoo?" our teacher said.

Cuckoos were brood parasites, she continued, outsourcing their offspring to other parents. I knew what Victor was now. When the time came for our annual beach vacation, I knew I had to act.

That day I pushed myself with a manic zeal. I swam further out than I had ever managed before. Victor followed, sullen and quietly miserable as always, but the thing behind him had to keep up its act.

There was a little alcove in the water, hidden behind an outcrop of rocks. I watched, holding my breath, as Victor failed to wail or scream like a real little brother would if his sibling disappeared. He simply settled down to wait. Like the matter was settled and he would be an only child from then on.

Then he smiled with teeth far too sharp and numerous to be human, and I hit him in the head with a rock.

I learned this back when I was eight: in the right situation, we are all capable of the most terrible crimes.

"I saw through you too," I whispered as I held him underwater for good measure. "We're all monsters."