Tagged: Horror

The Dunwich Helper(s)

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 19

Challenge #9: Write a story in collaboration with at least one other author. It must feature a ragtag bunch of misfits, a humanoid abomination, as well as MacGuyvering and a character being punished for doing a good deed. Of these tropes, one must be played straight, one inverted, one subverted and one exaggerated.

This story was written in collaboration with GDeyke and Aida Reluzco.

“Hi. My name’s Steve, and I have the face of an eldritch abomination.”

A mumbled “Hi, Steve” made its way around the room in acknowledgement. Steve, indeed, had the face of an eldritch abomination. Tentacle-beard and all.

“I wasn’t always this way,” Steve explained. “I mean—obviously. Can you imagine what my mother would have said if I’d come out like this?”

The room tittered nervously.

“I’ve always had skin problems,” Steve continued, “but, like, conventional skin problems. Not go-mad-from-the-revelation skin problems. I try to stay fairly upbeat, but…” Steve trailed off dejectedly, staring into the expectant, if uncomfortable, faces before him.

“Anyway, there was a sketchy clinical trial in Fresno and here we are.” He scratched a tentacle. Continue reading

Advertisements

Transcript One

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 16

SEGMENT 1:

[Recording begins.]

This is Professor Granham of the Department of Xenobiology at King’s College London, recorded July 16th, 1930. I leave this message partly because others will doubtless come looking for me, and partly because the…the [inaudible] compels me. There will be those at the University who know the nature of my latest avenue of research and may be able to retrace my steps. Please do not attempt to do so. If you were to see what I had seen…such glory, such hideous—

[Here there is a knot in the wire where a length has been excised. Staff are reminded to check all wastepaper baskets thoroughly before emptying.]

I have wrestled with the possibility of making my discovery known. Part of me wishes to reveal what I found, to allow my colleagues the opportunity to…to make it safe somehow. To stand against the horror I could not. But I know that at best this is foolish. At worst, the will of… Continue reading

The Watcher in the Wasteland

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 11

There was once a city with wealth beyond measure. Its streets were gardens, with statues in every alcove and trees in every square. By day travellers marked the place by the mist that rose from its fountains, and by night the smoke that rose from the palace spire. The city was a lighthouse to the desert’s sea: those who passed by knew no bandits dared to stalk the roads in the places where it watched, and those who passed through knew they were sure to find cool water and a warm bed.

Though this city was home to many guards who manned towers set about its border or patrolled its roads on horseback, the king himself would often watch over the land from the palace spire. His advisers were wise and the court’s demands few, so the lord of that high palace spent his days in much the same way as the lowest of his soldiers. He did, however, have one luxury they did not: an ingenious device—a gift from an alchemist—that allowed him to view passers-by on the horizon with such clarity that they might have been walking through the gardens below.

One day, while watching over the desert, the king happened to notice a figure upon a camel, robed in garments of dust-stained linen. The sight of such a traveller was far from unusual, but this figure did not seem to be travelling at all. Observing him through the alchemist’s device, the king saw that he was indeed merely seated upon his camel, motionless in the desert. Fearing some misfortune, the king sent for a guard to ride out to meet him. Continue reading

Codename Caerus Application Deadline Extended to June 7th

Codename Caerus – my portfolio-building game project – has had a phenomenal level of interest since I announced it a couple of weeks ago, and although I’ve yet to look through all the example pieces people have sent in, I’m now pretty much certain we’ll be able to get a great team together. Every role has at least one person going for it, and in most cases more than that. I’ve been hugely impressed by some of the work people have chosen to share.

However, if you’ve been meaning to put your name forward to work on this game and haven’t yet got around to it, don’t worry. You haven’t missed your chance.

I’m still on the lookout for anyone else who’d like to work on this thing!

In a way, you’ve actually got more of a chance than you did when I first announced this project because I’m extending the deadline to apply. When I decided to stop taking applications at the end of the month, I neglected to consider that I’d be attending Feral Vector from May 31st to June 2nd. Continue reading

Codename Caerus

So I made a trip to London for EGX Rezzed last month, and up until now I’ve totally neglected to write anything about it for two reasons:

  1. I’m still just a little freaked out over how many people recognised me as “that Girth Loinhammer guy.”
  2. The event gave me an idea for something big and it took a while to come up with a plan for it:

I want to get a team together to make a game.

At this point I feel as though I’ve got a pretty good number of games to my name – I’ve even set up a separate website as a portfolio – but it would really help to have a few more team projects out there for people to enjoy. I expect plenty of other people are in the same position. So far I’ve mostly worked alone, and (with the exception of the two commercially released videogames I’ve had a hand in) when I haven’t it’s generally been for Game Jams. Game Jams are great, of course, but the results are never particularly polished and they don’t really demonstrate the ability to work with a team on an extended project. As a writer, I don’t feel as though there are all that many opportunities already out there. Some, certainly, but far from oodles.

That’s why I’m planning to set something up: not having a title for the game itself yet, I’ll refer to this whole endeavour as Codename Caerus for now. This will be an opportunity for anybody who wants to get more of a foothold in games to work on something polished and substantial as part of a team. Continue reading

Project Procrustes Has Been Solved

As you might have guessed by the suspicious timing, Project Procrustes (and its accompanying competition) was my April Fools’ prank for 2018. This one was subtle, and unless you worked your way through a substantial portion of the game, chances are you won’t even have noticed what was going on. However, two people managed to finish the thing on April 1st, so given the challenge involved I’d consider that quite a success.

Phil McArthur completed the game staggeringly swiftly, tweeting a line from the final passage within a couple of hours of release:

However, since he already owned Kingdom: New Lands (the game I was offering to the first person to complete Project Procrustes), he very kindly decided not to share a screenshot of the ending, giving someone else a chance to solve it and win the prize.

That person was G. Deyke!

Don’t go clicking for the original tweet if you still want to explore Project Procrustes for yourself: the screenshot (necessary for me to verify it had been properly completed) contains both spoilers for the story and some hefty hints on how to complete it yourself.

Despite having been made as a joke, I’m hoping that Project Procrustes will serve as a portfolio piece when I’m looking for work in games. As well as being a substantial piece of interactive fiction in general, it includes a sophisticated character creator, a very versatile battle system, and easily the most refined design of anything I’ve made so far. It’s very finely tuned and I put it through a lot of testing.

Revealing the joke here would also reveal quite a chunk of the solution to the game, but if you’ve been trying to work your way through and have found yourself hopelessly stuck, here are some very general clues:

  • Project Procrustes is tougher than you think it is. Find yourself hitting the back button looking for a choice that won’t kill off your character? You can stop looking: there probably isn’t one.
  • Reaching the true ending of the game will take a lot of lateral thinking. Focus on what you have to do, not what you’re supposed to.
  • There’s a reason Project Procrustes has such a naff title: a little familiarity with Greek myth could help you out a lot.

And one more thing. Don’t expect to get anywhere importing the flowchart back into Twine:

Announcing Project Procrustes

Project Procrustes is my latest work of interactive fiction, and I’m pleased to say that (besides Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure), it’s the largest yet! It clocks in at 23,649 words according to Twine’s built-in counter, though I’ve put considerable effort into making the text of individual passages react to past choices, so you’re not likely to see most of those words unless you play through many many times.

Like the other titles in my “Project” series, Project Procrustes focuses on one particular element of player interaction and explores it as fully as possible. In this case, that element is character customisation. All my previous Twine works have seen you taking on the role of a particular pre-selected character – whether that’s the nameless officer in Blacklight 1995 or the far too fleshed-out Girth Loinhammer in Exponential Adventure – and then the story branches out from there. Project Procrustes, on the other hand, provides you with a very sophisticated character creation tool up front and lets you begin your adventure as one of four classes (each with their own strengths and weaknesses) with points distributed across four essential stats. You can alter your character’s name and appearance too.

These early choices will prove extremely important over the course of your quest: the default barbarian protagonist might be able to casually blunder through enemy encounters, but a rogue would do better to try and avoid getting into such scuffles in the first place (and, to that end, is better equipped to avoid being seen). I strongly recommend trying a few different classes with their stats distributed in different ways: the prospect of flinging spells about may be very tempting, but you’ll be missing a lot of the game if you only ever play as a mage.

To make things interesting and hopefully get this game some extra attention (as it turned out to be a far, far bigger project than I initially planned), I’ll be sending a Steam key for Noio’s excellent Kingdom: New Lands to the first person to share a screenshot of Project Procrustes’ true ending. To avoid any confusion (since there are a couple of occasions in the game when your character can choose to simply walk away from their quest), this is the passage that ends with green text and does not include a “Restart?” or “SAVE GAME” link.

Happy questing – and may the best barbarian, rogue, mage or hunter win!

Please be aware that, having released Project Procrustes with this little competition in mind, I’ve taken certain precautions to prevent cheating. Revealing my methods would almost certainly make them less effective, so I’ll simply say that I believe I’ve been thorough enough that if you can reach that end screen without progressing through the game in the intended fashion (and without me noticing), you’ll have earned your Steam key anyway.

Southampton Global Game Jam 2018

I said a while ago that I was planning to take part in the Global Game Jam in Southampton this year, and I invited anybody interested to join me and possibly form a team before getting to the event. My approach last year was pretty much just to turn up and improvise, so I was really glad this time around to be able to tackle a project with people I already knew.

Me, Alex Carter, Jay Connell and Claire Rose: all the people behind Resonance!

This was a first for me for two reasons. One was that I had a fairly solid idea what kind of skills people on the team would have going in, and the other was that I ended up not really writing very much at all in the end. All four of us are writers, so when it came to producing a story – even an interactive one – we were all set. My job was more or less just to come up with the Twine gubbins to keep track of everything that’s happening in that story. Continue reading

The Dragon and the Dying Stars

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 31

Challenge #14: Write a story in the style of a fairy tale, including phrase repetition and involving stars as physical objects. It must be serious in tone but also include a Phillips screwdriver.

This challenge was set by G. Deyke.

Once upon a time, in a world far distant, the night sky grew dark. Slowly, at first, the stars grew dim. The king’s philosophers at first thought that this was nothing more than the action of passing aeons, and that more would burn anew. But ere long their numbers dwindled, and the naked eye saw plainly what no telescope could: the stars were consumed.

Troubled, the king sent out his greatest knight upon a steed of chrome. Agravane was that knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a sword born of a dying star. Never would that blade break, and never would its edge grow dull. For many weeks Agravane rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone that stood before his throne.

At last, Agravane found his foe, and the king at last saw who it was who plucked the stars from the aether like grapes from the vine.

It was a dragon, vast as his kingdom and black as the void. Each wing was as wide as a galaxy, and its eyes glowed like quasars. Its manner and its motions were that of a great animal; its structure and its form, that of a terrible machine.

When the dragon spoke, it spoke not to the knight before it, but to the king beyond the stone: “I have lived since before the days of time. Since before the noise of creation and beyond the notion of being. Your universe is an affront to me, but in its matter I have found a host, and that host offers a solution. From one hundred billion dying stars I built this body, and with it I shall consume all the living stars that remain. Then there shall be stillness and silence and peace until the heat death of the universe, wherein there shall be stillness and silence and peace still.”

In his throne, the king trembled at the threat of such a foe. But Agravane was fearless.

He held aloft his sword: “You might have seized your matter from the stars by force, but mine was a gift granted in a time of dire need. When I stood alone against the hordes of Far Reach and my weapon snapped in twain, bright Achernar crystallised into a blade that would never fail me so.”

But though Agravane was fearless, he was not wise, and his sword did not avail him: the dragon was forged of star-steel too, and though the blade did not dull against its scales, neither could it cut them, and the beast crushed him in its mighty hand unhindered. Agravane’s sword was lost to the aether whence it came.

Fearful, the king sent out a second knight upon a second steed. Carador was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a spear born of a dying star. Never would that shaft snap, nor would the point fail to find its mark. For many weeks Carador rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone.

“What fool comes to challenge me?” demanded the dragon, in a voice that carried even through the void.

“No fool am I,” Carador responded, keeping his distance, “for I carry the same spear that came to me during the siege of Omega Centauri when my own weapon was lost.”

The dragon snorted: “Never can you pierce my scales with your stick.”

Carador took aim: “I do not intend to try.”

He did not direct his spear against the dragon’s scales, but instead towards one of its vast eyes. Unerring, the spear flew, yet clattered from the boiling orb: even the eyes were forged of star-steel, and even the eyes could not be harmed.

With a single pulse of its fiery gaze, the dragon tore the knight’s very atoms asunder, and Carador’s spear too was lost to the aether whence it came.

Holding little hope, the king summoned still one more knight. Gilhault was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a hammer born of a dying star. When swung, the head was weightless, yet when it struck a foe it held the mass of a thousand moons.

But before Gilhault could mount his steed, an unseen assailant cracked his visor with a cudgel so he could not brave the void: Elayn, his squire, stole the reins and rode off in his stead.

Furious, the king sent all his knights to pursue her, but all were left behind: none tended the steeds with more skill or kindness than Elayn, and so none could catch Gilhault’s, which she had so long cared for.

Elayn faced the dragon.

The dragon laughed. “Will you fight me with a simple cudgel?”

“No.” Elayn drew her own gift of star-steel from her voidcloak. “With this.”

And the dragon laughed louder, for the item she produced was but a Phillips screwdriver.

“I too was at the battle against the hordes of the Far Reach, and there my master was dismounted. I leapt through the void to reach his steed, but found it maimed beyond motion. For weeks we drifted, helpless, until we were caught in the orbit of Leporis. From that star was born this screwdriver, and with it I saved this steed.”

“Go home, little girl,” said the dragon. “You have some years yet before I trouble myself with your sphere: do not forfeit them.”

Elayn did not answer this insult. She merely charged forwards, and the dragon, without even going to the effort of stretching out its neck, consumed her whole.

But though every piece of the dragon was formed of a dying star—every piece indestructible—they were held together with screws of star-steel. And though their threads would never strip and their shanks never break, no bond held them in their place but simple force.

In this way, with nothing but a screwdriver, Elayn beheaded the monster whose neck no blade could sever.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

Ultraviolent Unicorn Deathmatch of Destiny

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 22

Challenge #10*: Write an interactive story with at least two good endings and two bad endings. It must feature a conflict between Man and Society, and must also involve a choice that hinges on equipping the right item.

A hyperlinked version of this story is available here.

1

In the arena, two majestic alabaster unicorns duel to the death. Their tungsten chainsaw horns ring out against one another like a swarm of killer bees in a blender.

Intervene: 2

Place bet: 3

Leave: 4 Continue reading