New Story! Totes By Me! "Riding Atlas," In Three-Lobed Burning Eye

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Today’s freshly-published story is a tale with some serious history behind it.
Riding Atlas” was the story I submitted to the Viable Paradise writing workshop, because I knew it was flawed and needed some serious help.  What I didn’t realize is that the story would get passed around Viable Paradise, even to people who hadn’t read it, with people asking, “Have you read the story about the entwined circulatory systems?  It’s fucking creepy.”  I wound up in an unadvertised Creeper Face-Off with fellow VP-er George Galuschak, who had also written a deeply disturbing story.  So by the end, people came up to me and went, “You are sick.”
Which, really, is a triumph for any writer.
Then this tale was greatly improved by the aid of editor Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, who did a thing I think every writer should see: instead of critiquing it, she simply edited it.  I watched her as she went through my words, taking out about a third of them – and instead of weakening the tale, every deletion strengthened it.  It was Teresa who showed me just how flabby my prose was, and that’s why I credit Viable Paradise with my turnaround.  I used to be a pretty sad prose stylist; now I’m no master, but I can string together a good sentence.  (With the help of my trusty copy of The 10% Solution to pare down my words, of course.  For the record, this story used to be 6,500 words long; I added two scenes and now it’s 4,900.)
So what’s the story about?  Well, I think an excerpt will be of use:

They were naked, now, on a dirty mattress.
“Neither of you have eaten or drunk anything for twenty-four hours?” Ryan asked, hauling equipment into the room: sloshing plastic buckets, packs of hypodermic needles, coils of tubing, straps. “And no drugs in your system? This is a pure trip. Just two bloods commingling. Any impurities will stop Atlas from getting inside you.”
Stewart didn’t answer. He was too distracted by all the naked couples. The attic floor was covered with bodies, lying belly to swollen belly on bedbug-blackened box springs. Their arms were thrust out above their heads, ears resting on their biceps; they clasped hands like lovers, each couple’s circulatory systems knitted into a single bloodstream.
Stewart felt his arms itch where the needles would be inserted, anticipation and fear churning into a sour mix in his gut. But Tina was ready, as she always was for things like this. She’d dragged him here, telling him they had to do this now, before they outlawed consanguination just like they’d outlawed LSD.
She stared up at Ryan with adoration as he strung the wiring above them with efficient motions. Her breath came in excited hitches.
Though his girlfriend was dry-humping Ryan with her eyes, Stewart took satisfaction in the way Ryan refused to look back. Ryan had wanted to take her to Atlas, but Tina had insisted her boyfriend should be her first time. And Stewart had gone along with it — because if he didn’t, Ryan would.
Once you’d exchanged the most vital bodily fluid, Stewart thought, sex was almost an afterthought. That must be why the consanguinated fucked so much. But Tina kept insisting this wasn’t about sex…

Go forth and read it, if you dare.


  1. kyrias
    Oct 17, 2012

    Sick? Perhaps a bit gross, but even more than that — somehow it rang of truth. I don’t quite know where that thought comes from, and hell if I can back it up with logic, but it’s a cogent distillation of humans and what drives humanity.

    • TheFerrett
      Oct 17, 2012

      Thank you. My stories always try to tell some truth about human nature, but Lord knows this one cut a little closer to the bone than most.

  2. WA_side
    Oct 22, 2012

    I think the creepiness comes more from the setting than the act itself.
    Though it doesn’t strike me as something I would try, surely any substance or idea that we imbibe to bring ourselves to a higher level of understanding, is but another possible nirvana?
    The juxtaposition between their (beautiful) intent and (squalid) surrounds really left me feeling unnerved, quite apart from their activities, thoughts and conclusions.
    I thought it well written, though certainly uncomfortable to read.
    Minor correction – there was a stray Ryan that I believe should have been a Stewart.

    • TheFerrett
      Oct 22, 2012

      I’d try it. Sadly. I seriously would.
      And thank you.

      • WA_side
        Oct 23, 2012

        If it brought the result you desired and was enacted with informed consent, then surely there would be no need to view your choice as sad? (Ok, maybe the setting would require your disclaimer… so go for a clean room sans bedbugs)
        One of my children spent their first twenty-four hours in a humidicrib due to blood incompatibility between the two of us, so I would pass on the basis of risk.

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