Tuataria Encounters: April Edition

THE BRIEF

This time, we’re leaving behind the spooky every day and pondering what is out there, beyond our world. Don your spacesuits, jump in your rockets and journey with me to the other side of our atmosphere. What does the darkness hold? Perhaps you are rocketing towards a black hole – is it a mirror to a parallel universe, or could it be a portal to another time? Maybe you want to explore new planets, or park up on the Moon and stare back down at our lonely Earth. The adventure is yours and where you go is up to you – and you have just 280 characters to tell us about it.


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Cloud

They say the water on Planet Zorthox keeps you young. They say the fruit from the planet is to die for. They say the untouched views are breathtaking. They say it’s an untapped tourist destination. No one knows who ‘they’ are. No one who goes to Zorthox has ever come back.

– I don’t know where this came from I just wanted to be involved

Judge’s comments:
I really love this, especially the twist in the end. It plays on the spooky vibes that space sci-fi generally has, but also has an approachable voice. – Erin

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roguegreyjedi

I don’t know if anyone can hear this. I’m the last survivor of the settler ship sent to New Earth. All the others went surface-side and haven’t returned. They’re fine, I guess, but this ship was our home and now it’s a ghost town. Come back? I’m lonely. Come home.

Judge’s comments:
I really like how you can almost hear how lonely this voice is, and it makes your mind start asking more questions of this story – who are they, why are they still in the ship, what happened to everyone who left and why aren’t they replying? – Alys

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The One True Ryan of Tuataria

I’m supposed to be in hibernation, but I can’t resist. I’m alone. Truly alone. No one on the crew is awake, no signals incoming. Just me and a metal mudroom with black decor. It’s… nice, to just sit and think. And think, and think. Maybe this is what I needed after all.

– There isn’t much going on here, but it’s a sentiment I wanted to express. It’s an attempt to create home in an extreme environment. The “black decor” references the windows of the craft and their view of nothing. It’s low-key, but that’s fine with me.

Judge’s comments:
This is another story that hints at how space is a place where you could be truly alone in a way that you just can’t manage on a planet of 7 billion people. – Wilko


These three entries are personal picks from our judges! They didn’t get unanimous votes like the previous three did, but each of us chose one entry to highlight for reasons that you will get to read later on.

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Alice

While we all look at the same moon, it can be easy to miss the red dot of Mars. So long as you know where to look, it’ll always be there. From there, you can try to look further. And further. And further. Who knows what we’ll find?

– I’ve spoken to some people in the server about how the moon is the moon and we’ll all look at it no matter where we’re from and it’s the same. That kind of lead to “well, if everyone’s looking at the same space, it’s all collaborative.” It’s late so this may make no sense lol

Judge’s Comments:
This is my personal favourite- it does a really good job of expressing humanity’s urge to explore more and more of space and just keep going, pushing the boundaries of what we know to try and learn more – Alys

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Mels

“So, this is it,” thought Al. Head-on collision with a black hole was inevitable at this point. His hand, still holding a pencil, reached out to a small sheet of paper, and as his world lines collided he crossed out the last line of his bucket list.

“Become a noodle”

Spaghettification is the process of stretching out vertically and squishing together horizontally due to very strong gravity and tidal forces.

Judge’s Comments:
Science wrapped up in comedy is a beautiful way of approaching this, and this execution nearly made me have a spit-take. Well done. – Erin

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Moh

‪I placed my head on a soft carpet towards the green-blue planet. I wondered how this rock has effected me in so many ways and somewhat floaty it feels. Once I was done, I heard a noise outside but couldn’t see a thing.
‪I then remembered a question I had as a kid
‪They’re here.

– This came from a bunch of places: Jinns in Space:tm: which was the premise I wanted to go on, one tweet I saw about how muslim astronauts would probably argue about which direction to pray towards and the fact that the moon is used a lot to symbolise Islam (hence the setting!)

Judge’s Comments:
I want to see the story of a Muslim astronaut who meets aliens and answers their childhood questions. 100% – Wilko


You can view all the entries for this round in a google doc!

Tuataria Encounters: Debut Round

The wooden clock mourns in dull bells as it announces the arrival of the witching hour. Around the fire, several dark figures gather, silhouettes stark against the light. Their faces are illuminated occasionally by the golden glow of the hearth, but are otherwise indistinguishable against the black night. The darkness is bracing, though, somehow. You settle in.

Hello, friends/black cats/storytellers! Welcome to our debut round of Tuataria Encounters—a new flash fiction project started by Skye to highlight some truly excellent (and sometimes bone-chilling) stories from around the server. From peculiar bots to seemingly unending roads, we were delighted by the entries we received and really wish we could highlight more of them, but we can’t wait to share the ones we’ve chosen with you.

THE PROMPT: Tell us a story, in less than 280 characters, about a chilling encounter set in a specific location, whether online or off. There are no requirements for the entity (or entities, or maybe the whole city is out to get them) haunting your protagonist—they can be based on ancient myths, urban legends, or even something you’ve always found curious in your day-to-day life. Remember: what usually makes these stories work is the way they turn specific, mundane motions into spooky things. The water’s just a little bit green-tinged in the lake you always pass on the way to work. The lights in the fast food place round the block are always flickering. Why?

As the fire flickers, a cough emerges from the darkness, and the stories begin… 


These five stories were chosen by our three judges together, and are what we think great representations of stories that answer and interpret the prompt in extraordinary ways. Each piece is accompanied by the setting of tale (whether physical/geographic or online), a little author’s note, and a comment from a judge with a bit of our reasoning behind why we like a specific piece. The guest judges for our debut round are Lyserg.Z and BoedJ (Jonathan), along with Skye (that’s me!).

Willowisp // geographic
My city has a TON of indie coffee shops. Maybe this is why.

Skye: I think what really makes this one is the ambiguity of the whole situation. The images the story evokes are totally innocent on their own—twin baristas, cherry wood, red juice—but they make you feel SO uneasy when woven together. The repetition of “this one is different” also really helps to sell the story. That’s totally pure Arabica coffee, we imported the beans and everything. What do you mean you can hear screaming from the back?


 

will // geographic
My town has a tulip festival every spring, but it can be really REALLY creepy walking home at night when the streets are suddenly empty and dark. I can’t figure out where they all go so fast!

Lyserg: I can see and hear the “rides that whirl with empty seats”. You can also read it as having absolutely no supernatural elements to it except the narration does a great job at conveying the possibility of them.


illusemywords // geographic
The Oslo government wants downtown Oslo to be mostly car free within a few years. There’s been a lot of discussion about it, and I figured nature should get to voice her opinion.

Jonathan: I like how this isn’t about something spooky in us or from beyond our world — but rather our absence in this one. Nature is the natural, the romantic, but also a destructive force, and possibly even vengeful for what we have done to her.

I also like the ambiguity of the ‘we’. Who knows this supposed truth? Is there a secret group among us, colluding with nature?


SB#5726 (Cloud) // geographic
I live in a conservative area and there’s this huge Trump 2016 sign on a road I travel pretty often. It makes me uncomfortable every time I drive past it, so I decided to share the discomfort.

Lyserg: Haha, this is almost mean spirited, but in a way appropriate to this theme. Funny/mean extrapolation of a real story of a simple but upsetting object. Gets more upsetting when you stop to think about how electoral signs might have awkward big photos of people looking into the camera, and how that’d feel if they multiplied like that (but even moreso because of the specific real things this is referencing).


BananaBoat#5237 // geographic
Boston is known for being a small, walking friendly city. But it’s so confusing and hard to get to so many parts of it that it feels like you never stop walking or can’t get to where you need to be.

Jonathan: There isn’t really anything spooky about this, and yet… I like the mundaneness, the sense of a shimmer over the road which appears because of the context in which the story is read — without invoking any supernatural entities, simply with a few well-chosen words that make you wonder.


These three entries are personal picks from our judges! They didn’t get unanimous votes like the previous five did, but each of us chose one entry to highlight for reasons that you will get to read later on.

WittgensteinsCow // geographic
Angkot are short of angkutan umum (public transportation) and are called share taxis in English. They do not drive safely.

Skye: Part of what makes these stories are so compelling to me is the way they turn really specific cultural practices into spooky things. I’ve written a lot of papers in college about the purpose of fiction in culture, and one key thing that I keep circling back to is how the stories we tell inform and reflect who we are: our beliefs and hopes and anxieties. These are the ghost stories we’ve always known, passed on from our parents and rooted deeply in our own cultures, but they’re also uniquely ours because they’re told from a modern context. The fact that this story uses Indonesian names really speaks to my own upbringing in Malaysia. I sure hope that the supernatural entities in the angkut are friendly, though. Don’t wanna incur eternal damnation just by taking a trip to the store.

I also added a period to the end of this one, since Ev ran out of characters. You’re welcome Ev.


alipeli // geographic
This actually happened to me. My friend’s dead father kinda appeared to me in a dream or in ghost form to say that he liked that we are still friends. He dies when we were 4.

Lyserg: I like the nice more mundane ghosts.

A lot of horror stories are good at giving you a clever spooky punchline, or at twisting normal events into eerie ones, all with a certain type of entertaining maliciousness from the author. But some stories just have this purposeful naivety to them that makes it feel like “yeah, the author’s really just telling me about something that happened to them, with no ulterior motives”. I swear I know other people who’d have this kind of stories and a sort of mundane relationship with local folklore and ghosts… is that a Latin American thing?


streaky // online
bots ft doctor who monsters

Jonathan: I don’t get the Doctor Who reference (surprise, surprise), but still this has to be my personal pick. I’m biased as one of the bot coders, of course. Even without that bias, though, I like the fact that it takes place in our own little Internet community and puts a spooky twist on a phenomenon many people in it will be familiar with.

Addendum from Skye: This is based on the monster from a Doctor Who episode called ‘Midnight‘. The fact that I know about this specific episode despite not being into the series should probably speak to its renown and the amount of nightmares that it’s spawned on its own.


The wind picks up as the last person finishes telling their story. There is no applause, only the smell of pine and wood and something a little muskier, something you can’t quite pick out. The fire seems content, though, its embers lapping away at the remaining logs of firewood. The trees in the distant forest are hushed. You’re safe, for now. Probably.

Thank you for participating, everyone! You can view all the entries (all 33 of them!) we got in this rather extensively formatted doc that Lyserg’s compiled for us. This was an incredibly fun project that we’ll hopefully get to do more of in the future! Until next time, stay safe from the things that go bump when you turn off the lights, and DFTBA.