I hate this computer. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Cutting and pasting took AGES. It’s awful. I need mine fixed.

As such, you get the speed version of the intro. Scores were completely all over the place this week. I think it’s because we saw a pretty consistent level of strength in these stories, which was higher than average, though I wouldn’t say any of my all-time favorites were here, either. This is all a roundabout way of saying this one was really difficult to score.

Beau

Deity Vocational Questionnaire (True deities only! Demigods, turn to page 17)

1. How long does it take you to create a universe?

a. billions of years

b. six days, then hoo-boy am I tired!

c. As long as I goddam feel like

2. (Essay Question) Some living things will deny your existence. How do you feel about killing them?

K: Yikes. That’s hopefully as cynical as these get. It’s an okay joke that probably works better with a lot more words.

MD: Straight, to the point, and made me smile. Especially the last question. GOLD

W: I smirked, but I don’t think I got much farther. C, of course, is the right answer to question

1. Meh is probably the right answer to question 2.

Matt Novak

CLEVELAND – I stepped inside the trailer. He sat with his axe in the corner, a sacrifice lingering on his altar. He shooed her away – said “sin no more” – and offered me a Budweiser. I declined. To the throngs he was a god, but I just wanted the story.

“How’d you get started?”

“Those Beatles were just so smug, right?”

K: Oy. I was very much looking forward to this payoff. It was sort of an eye-roller, but I’ll give it props for drawing me in regardless. This was an incredibly difficult one to score because the payoff was a letdown, but I loved the opening world-building.

MD: If you hadn’t put “Cleveland” in all caps here, I would’ve looked at this as a Charles Manson retelling with some nice imagery. And if my initial go-to is serial killers (isn’t that everybody’s go-to?), that means this story is actually about true love, redemption, and maybe goldfish. SILVER

W: So what’s the backstory on this? This story really piques my curiosity, but I can’t seem to

place all the moving pieces together. Please enlighten me in the comments. Anyway, it sets

a great scene. SILVER

Dean Carlson

Erin always held a certain appeal: The ass of a Greek goddess supporting a well worn pair of black jeans topped by a green Meat Puppets T-shirt; tattoo of a dragon on her wrist; copper red hair obscuring the left side of her finely structured face. I still get shivers thinking of the day she said “I do.”

K: I’ll take it. I’d like to see a scene of Erin’s, but I understand that the idea of her as a goddess doesn’t come through nearly as well that way. Unconventional take, and worth the risk.

MD: Erin is cliche in my mind, which biases me slightly against the story (you know, the punk magic pixie dream girl?). I appreciate the use of the prompt here, though, as only one other story has the prompt refer to the narrator’s love interest.

W: A Meat Puppets reference without AMR writing the story? They are still one of the worst

live acts I have ever seen. Making the wife a deity is nice, but this is a pretty superficial

reason to fall in love.

Brooks Maki

Evening prayers had started as I passed the new god coming on duty. I hesitated. This was an enormous leap of faith, even for a god.

“I was wondering if you could send a healing miracle to my wife?” My forbidden request brought her up short.

As she stared, I felt the heat like brimstone rising in my face.

K: Oh, man. I feel like we’ve been cheated out of quite a few words here, unfortunately. I like the world you’ve built here and I think it’s rife with possibilities; we’ve just scratched the surface. BRONZE

MD: An interesting possible world here. It makes me think of American Gods, or similar urban fantasy retellings of gods on earth just being…people. With people problems. SILVER

W: I really, really love the idea here but the execution doesn’t hit the mark for me. The third

sentence is beautiful, but this story is completely too confined by 59-words to get where it

needs to go.

Sarah Wreisner

I stepped out and quickly unpacked. Glenn – he’d given me the news – flapped his arms as I unfolded the greasy rag.

Most of them kneeled, praying to a tiny, thoughtless god.

Patti from HR died loudly as I cleared my cube. She hadn’t been so bad.

The elevator smelled like coffee and mothballs – like church, I remembered, smiling sadly.

K: This one begged for several readings as the ideas of this story came together. Does the writer wish he or she had more words, or does this unfold like he or she wanted? I’m genuinely curious. I’d cut the last four words and make it more matter-of-fact but this is a nice (well, not “nice”), interesting piece. SILVER

MD: This is dark and disconcerting. It uses vague wording while also being perfectly clear. A unique use of our narrator as “deity”. SILVER

W: The cold, methodical nature really boosts this. He is just so ho-hum while leaving a trail of

bodies. The final sentence is really, really close to being incredible, but the “smiling sadly”

detracts from its power. SILVER

Annette Barron

“Oh. God! Oh God.” I pant. I feel your lips curve against my straining flesh.

“Shut it!” I hiss. Your shoulders shake.

After, you pull me in to spoon. “Only time you’re not an atheist.”

I’m too boneless to argue. “Mmmhmm.”

“Maybe I’M your god.” You whisper into my hair. You’re going to be insufferable tomorrow.

“You are tonight.”

K: This struck me like a lot of words that are best internalized. I like this idea quite a bit, but I’d rewrite the dialogue a little, with some more subtext like I believe I detect in the final spoken line.

MD: This is either erotic romance or scat porn. It all depends on what the “straining flesh” is all about.

W: I’ve read this several times and just can’t get past the choppy narrative between external

dialogue, internal dialogue, and general narration. This just shifts too many times in such a

compact story that it doesn’t flow. Plus, I’m just not that curious about the two characters. Is

the narrator Satan? I don’t care enough to really find out.

Margaret Martin

Shadows lengthened and spread like a stain; she stretched herself awake.

Slaves brought her food and drink. Ignoring them, she pushed onto the veranda. The sunset gleamed in her magnificent, alien eyes.

A mortal approached her clumsily from behind, and she felt a familiar tug as he extracted a gleaming silver strand from her anus.

“Jesus Christ. Every Christmas!”

K: Wow. I’ve never been shocked so completely from setup to payoff. Such a shock usually comes off as cheap and lame, but this is so clever I can’t help but love it. GOLD

MD: This is why you don’t put tinsel on Christmas trees. A cute play on the “god” theme, though.

W: The author properly used a semicolon; I bet spooky just creamed himself in praise [K: You DAAAAAMN right]. Try as I might, I cannot for the life of me understand the reference. I’m sure it’s quite witty, but I’ll admit to not being able to understand it.

Ben Johnson

The wheel spins painfully from my grasp.

“Time for dinner!” came the summons.

A disbelieving disembodied shout as the car caroms from guardrail into oncoming traffic.

She threatens, “I know you hear me. Don’t make me come in there!”

Time slows – the semi looms, deafening horn filling my ears.

“Loki!”

Incomprehensibly, I veer back into the southbound lane.

K: Hmm. Videogame related? Movie related? I wish I knew. I’m pretty sure this one has a great secret that I’m not in on. BRONZE

MD: Interesting that, of all deities, Loki makes it into this round twice. For this one, it took me a couple readings before I realized the connection between Loki and the veering protagonist. That confusion is probably what had me rate this lower.

W: This is probably the hardest story I’ve had to judge in the first three batches. I like it more

and more each time I read it, so the author is going to get the benefit of me having now read it

four times. I love the passiveness of the entire story. BRONZE

Jack Haas

My four shadows converge demanding payoff. The adversary prays to the wrong Creator for salvation, unable to perceive the true Author of his demise.

His struggles and mine, too intertwined to be compared, now fall toward one horrible climax. In my moment of indecision a machine delivers the god that delivers both of us from evil.

K: The story’s a little emotionally distant, though the prose is smart and interesting. I wish I could connect with it a little more, as it’s all plot with no character, but I enjoyed reading it. BRONZE

MD: This one is strangely sexual, but not in the scat sense. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be other-worldly…or another Christ story. A tiny bit more clarity, that a couple more words (sadly) would allow, would be nice. BRONZE

W: This is very high-concept, but it’s too vague and mysterious for its own good. Again, I think

a few more words would really help because the author is really close to telling a fascinating

and unique story.

Sama Smith

It was Lyle’s first time, but something didn’t look right.

“Three days,” Merle said. “Who takes six days? Amateurs.”

But Lyle thought it looked sloppy.

Merle scoffed. “Quit you’re whining. I’ve been doing this a long time.” He sneezed, celestial snot flew everywhere. “Ha, that oughta be worth something.”

Disgusted, Lyle wondered what would evolve from that shit someday.

K: Cute enough small story. Was it rushed? The jokes could be punched up and there’s an incorrect “your/you’re” in there. Nice idea, but lacking some pop.

MD: This one doesn’t speak to me. It might have been too much on the silly side. I’m not sure.

W: I love, love Merle’s dismissiveness about it taking six ridiculously drawn-out days to create

the universe. The author has somehow created not one, but two compelling characters. If six

days leads to twerking and Sandra Bullock, I can’t even imagine a world that was created in

half the time. GOLD

Colin Woolston

The bronze-wound strings hummed in tune with his mind’s every fantasy, and there was not an unmoved soul among the gathered. His black eyes held the gaze of the miller’s daughter, and the miller swelled with pride.

Two days from the crossroads, and life was fine. Johnny had paid the price, and the Old Man always gives what’s due.

K: Oh, cleeeever. Despite the source material, I didn’t feel like I was reading a tedious reference done out of laziness. GOLD

MD: I’m always fans of crossroad deals with devils, and this is the only time the Devil comes up as the “deity” involved, which lends it some points. BRONZE

W: Another musical god makes an appearance, but I like this story a little less. Rock is

supposed to be gritty and grimy and glamorously seedy, and Johnny’s story doesn’t have any

of that. A perfectly good story, but I happen to like the other better. BRONZE

Jonathon Pope

I made a bet with Loki. It was hubris, but I’m allowed.

I never worried about Loki. He drove everyone else crazy, but I’d never play his games. That drove him crazy. I never thought he could make my followers believe I was dead.

I haven’t lost, though I’m weak. My influence fades. Loki hunts my remaining followers.

K: Sometimes, simple is the way to go. We know what Loki did to Thor, we have a goal, old world character flaws, and motivation. Very strong stuff. GOLD

MD: This one seems like it might have suffered from the 59-word limit. It wants to tell a much bigger story and, in this shortened form, loses any chutzpah it may have had.

W: A god suffering from hubris is pretty great. This almost reminds me of Jacob and the Man

in Black (no, not the Dread Pirate). Besides Lyle and Merle, this is my favorite pairing of

characters for the week. GOLD

Pete Bruzek

Into Blaguar’s lair he crept. The dark god’s reign was to end tonight.

For all The Hated One’s might, Zevion’s determination won out.

“Release!” exulted Blaguar, “Pray, knight, don’t…”

Zevion silenced his enemy and retrieved the helm. Placing it atop his head, he felt dark power consume him.

Blaguar had been “the hated”. Zevion was to be “the feared”.

K: Hmm. I feel like I’ve been dropped into a world with a backstory way too large for the amount of words we got in this one. The name “Blaguar” borders on fantasy parody, but mostly my issue is that we don’t have time for the story told.

MD: This one takes on a slightly different tone and creates a whole new world. BRONZE

W: Boy, it didn’t take long for Zevion decide to be evil. I wish we had a little more about

whether the helm caused the dark power, or if it was just inherent in being a deity. Of course,

that might require a few more words that aren’t allowed. BRONZE

Bret Highum

The boy stood waiting for the bus downtown, ignoring the homeless man on the bench.

The man tipped back his brown-bagged bottle, then spoke. “I was once worshiped, boy.”

The boy eyed the vagrant, curious, but the man spoke no more. Eventually, the youth could no longer contain himself.

“What was the name of your band?”

Dionysus sighed, despondently.

K: Dionysus? Actor bait! As a result, I may like this a little more than I should, but whatever. It’s sort of a cutesy joke, but if Dionysus was to fall, this is how it would happen, and he could reasonably be a drunken vagrant on the street. SILVER

MD: On the one hand, the “old homeless dude as god” thing comes up pretty often in stories about god. On the other, revering a rockstar as a god comes up pretty often, too. On the third hand, they’re less often grouped together in a 59 word joke with punchline. The fourth hand didn’t appreciate the joke enough. BRONZE

W: Aren’t kids the worst? They’re almost as bad as customers, amiright? Anyway, this is a

pretty good slice of life story except the story of a godlike person coming in the appearance of

a homeless, downtrodden man seems to be a little overdone. Bonus points, though, for

making the drunken deity the god of wine. BRONZE

Ian Pratt

Our mission, Harold George, codename Papa. Capture or kill. Weapons free from the get-go. Kinda hard with so many women and kids in the compound, all ready to die for Papa’s blessing.

How do some men inspire such devotion, such unrelenting faith in an authority above? Was the Lieutenant aware of the irony as he ordered us to fire?

K: Here we have a David Koresh/Branch Davidian sort of thing…I was surprised not to see more in the brainwashing realm here. It’s got the potential to be more powerful in the hands of a different narrator. It’s still interesting, but I’d take it from an angle inside the house, as the final internal struggle of one of the mothers might have made for a bigger story.

MD: I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the somewhat detached narrator, but I do like this tale, as much of it as could be told in 59 words. GOLD

W: The self-awareness of the narrator at the end was a nice little twist. I was already

impressed with the quick way sympathy was established for the unfortunate followers of this

cult leader, but the extra wrinkle makes it even better. Normally I’m not particularly interested

in narrators who are “too perfect,” but this one really grabs me. SILVER

Brian David

“It’s time.”

Mark’s eyelids were heavy. He looked around the plane.

“It’s time.”

Mark stood, lungs burning. He walked past the silent passengers of flight 522 and into the cockpit.

The pilots didn’t move.

Looking out the window, he could see feathered wings, lit on fire by the sun. Ahead were the snow capped mountains of Greece.

“I’m here.”

K: Wow. Although this image tells me less of the story than I’m aching to know, that’s a powerful image created in just a few words. SILVER

MD: This is some great imagery around the concept of god calling his “child” to heaven, or whatever it is god does these days. This also forced me to look up Flight 522. The story was poignant with or without the information, but I like the added info. It’s my favorite this round. GOLD

W: Icarus, the ultimate story of hubris, seeps through this story in a week of hubris. I just wish

that this story could be a little more developed because I like the potential. I’m just not

convinced Mark is that interesting yet.

Erik S

Ask any of Phil, Jerry, or Eugene, and they’d all say one of the other guys invited him onto the team. All he knew was that he looked forward to each of their Thursdays for the opportunity to take a form with actual limitations, and to struggle against them.

That, and add a few more pins to his average.

K: If this is referencing Lebowski, it was fun. If it’s not referencing the movie, it was still fun for other reasons. BRONZE

MD: This one doesn’t sing to me. Or it does, but it sounds like Joan Osborne’s “What if God Was One of Us”, and that’s just not cool, man.

W: God struggling with hubris has a lot of potential, but God sandbagging while bowling is

incredibly silly. I love it. GOLD

Christina Pepper

I told my pal HS to put a bug in her ear so that she would remember to keep the Sabbath holy. But apparently that old ghost thought I said to put a dove in her ear.

Damn these idioms.

K: We end with a small gag, after beginning with one. Lots of humor this week. This one didn’t totally blow my skirt up, but the image does a decent job.

MD: I’m not sure what/who “HS” is. This seemed hastily put together and fell kinda flat as a result.

W: Another smirk-worthy story, but the depth this week was so strong that humor is mostly

going to get the short-shrift.

———————————————————————–

I want to update the spreadsheet for you guys, really, but MAN this computer made it a chore to do this. I’ll have time tomorrow morning, so long as I remember.

Congratulations to the 27 of you who managed golds, since they were so spread around. Oh, and our lone Not-Appearing-in-this-Challenge was Zack. We’ll lick 100% here one of these times.

For Thursday night at 9pm Central, give me a story about an Observer. Keep it real, Prosers. Do people still say that?

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